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Bericht van pastor Tanka Subedi over de grondwet in Nepal en vrijheid van geloof

Vandaag ontvingen we een bericht van pastor Tanka Subedi over de huidge stand van zaken met betrekking tot de grondwet in Nepal en vrijheid van geloof. Het volledige bericht staat hieronder.

Pastor Tanka is lid van het Religious Liberty Forum

(Religious Liberty Forum (RLF) being organization working for the freedom of religion and belief, draws its serious attention to attacks on Churches and Christian believers in Nepal lately. This is to inform that RLF is advocating at the national and international level to prevent such incident. RLF would like to appeal all the Nepali churches to have regular prayers, mutual visitation, discussion, and unity. Let us not be afraid of the current situation, but remain constantly vigilant.)

 

Speciale aandacht graag voor:

  • Sinds 2015 is er duidelijk sprake van een toename van geweld tegen religieuze minderheden varierend van bomaanslagen tot valse beschuldigingen.
  • Volgens berichten in verschillende media hebben de minister van Binnenlandse Zaken van Nepal en de minister voor vrouwen kinderen en ouderen samen besloten om geen nieuwe registratie toe te staan aan organisaties die betrokken zijn bij evangelisatie.
  • Aanbevelingen:
    • Remove the explanation for secularism from the article 4
    • The article 26-1 should be reworded in line with International Covenant on Civil Political Rights (ICCPR) article 18-1 which clearly states right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, and teaching.
    • Draft suitable Guthi (trust) act or similar policy in the participation of all the religious groups, keeping special consideration to the practicality of religious minorities as mention in article 26-2. Allow the existing organization registered under NGO act or Company act to function as per their constitution on religious issues or make a provision to move such NGO’s or Company to the new provision.
    • Remove the sentence “convert another person from one religion to another or any act or conduct that may jeopardize other's religion” from the article 26-3.
    • Criminal code to be amended to remove the sections 155-159 to ensure that only unethical proselytizing is criminalized, and other vague terms are removed.
    • Make provision for the local governments at ward level to facilitate and provide funeral/burial places for all the religious groups according to their own practices.

 

 Inhoud van het document

Updated position paper on Nepal’s constitution and general code on the issues of freedom of religion or belief
12.06.2018
 
Context:
The article 26-1 of Nepal’s Constitution (2015) protects the freedom of religion or belief and includes the rights to profess, practice and preserve which states “every person who has faith in religion shall have the freedom to profess, practice and protect his or her religion according to his or her conviction.”
 
The second clause of the same article says, "Every religious denomination shall have the right to operate and protect its religious sites and religious Guthi (trusts)". Provided that nothing shall be deemed to prevent the regulation, by making law, of the operation and protection of religious sites and religious trusts and management of trust properties and lands.
 
While the first clause protects the freedom of religion, wide and far-reaching restriction imposed in the third clause that says, “no person shall, in the exercise of the right conferred by this article, do, or cause to be done, any act which may be contrary to public health, decency and morality or breach public peace, or convert a person from one religion to another or any act or conduct that may jeopardize other's religion and such act shall be punishable by law.”
 
The above restriction conflicts with the formation of Nepal as a proportional inclusive state as envisioned by the constitution and articulated in its preamble. Furthermore, the explanation for the term “secularism” found in article four is problematic as it seeks to give a special status to Sanatan Dharma (the religion and culture handed down from ancient times which is commonly understood as Hinduism) over and above other all religious faith and traditions.
 
The proposed restriction will violate the right of religious communities to propagate the tenets of their belief, as such act can be seen an attempt to convert. But such act in other hand is a violation of the right to opinion and freedom of expression, which is an integral part of the constitution.
 
The restriction imposed in the constitution is further strengthened by the offenses related to religion in the section nine of the Nepal’s Muluki Ain (Criminal code – act 2017), where the article 155 says:

Article 155

1. No one should damage, hate or insult or other related act on religious belief or holy places or pollute graveyards of any ethnic groups or community intentionally.
 
2. If found guilty; there will be punishment up to three years of imprisonment and penalty of thirty thousand rupees.
 
3. If foreigners are found guilty; they will have to be deported within seven days after completing imprisonment mentioned in the second clause.

Article 156 on religious sentiments

1. No one should wound religious sentiments of any caste, community or ethnic groups by using texts, writing, verbal, symbols or any other means.
 
2. If found guilty; there will be the punishment of two years of imprisonment and penalty of twenty thousand rupees.

Article 157 on religious traditions

1. No one should create obstacles knowingly in the religious tradition of other faith being practiced since ancient times (Sanatan).
 
2. If found guilty; there will be the punishment of one year of imprisonment or penalty of ten thousand rupees or both.

Article 158 on religious conversion

1. No one should involve or encourage the conversion of religion.
 
2. No one should convert a person from one religion to another religion or profess their own religion and belief with similar intention by using or not using any means of attraction and by disturbing religion or belief of any ethnic groups or community that being practiced from the time of immemorial (Sanatan).
 
3. If found guilty; there will be the punishment of five years of imprisonment and penalty of fifty thousand rupees.
 
4. If foreigners are found guilty; they will have to be deported within seven days after completing the imprisonment in the third clause.

Article 159 provides statute of limitations

Filing of the lawsuit is not valid after six months from the date of knowledge of offense committed according to article 158. Such status of limitation will be three months from the day of offense committed for rest of the articles of this section.
 
Going through the provisions critically, one can see the words “hate”, “insult”, “wounding religious sentiments” and “obstacles” are vague and open to misuse. These sections will also have “a chilling effect” on even legitimate speech as the section fails to provide the clear boundary of what is prohibited.
 
The inadvertent omission to distinguish between conversion and unethical proselytizing will create ambiguity in the interpretation of the clauses. These clauses could also be invoked against a wide range of legitimate expressions of religious faith. The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief stated: “Many human rights instruments stipulate and the Human Rights Committee holds that the right to manifest one’s religion includes carrying out actions to persuade others to believe in a certain religion. For example, article 6 (d) of the 1981 Declaration states that the practice of the freedom of religion includes the freedom, “to write, issue and disseminate relevant publications….”
 
The UN Special Rapporteur has also held that, “The question of missionary activities and other forms of propagating s (sic) religion has been at the centre of the mandate on freedom of religion since the beginning” and further stated, “Also, while not explicitly including religious rights, article 19 of ICCPR, which protects freedom of expression, is formulated in a way that also covers missionary activities: “[T]his right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of [one’s] choice”.
 
The Human Rights Committee’s constant jurisprudence has deemed the protection afforded by article 19 extremely strong.”
 
Impacts of the legislation:
 
Since 2015, there have been a substantially increased in the violence against religious minorities, especially Christian, there have been bombing and arson attacks at the Churches, physically auscultated, falsely accused of evangelism and conversion and false propaganda against the Christian and ethnic minority.
 
The various Nepali medias (June 2018), reports that the ministers from home ministry and ministry of women, children and senior citizen has jointly decided not to renew faith-based organization that involved in proselytization. Foreign donation to faith-based projects are rejected from being approved since 2015.
 
Recommendations:
 
1. Remove the explanation for secularism from the article 4: this advocate only for the protection and freedom of Sanatan Dharma and culture whereas Sanatan is normally understood as a Hindu term in the local public tongue.
 
2. The article 26-1 should be reworded in line with International Covenant on Civil Political Rights (ICCPR) article 18-1 which clearly states right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, and teaching.
 
3. Draft suitable Guthi (trust) act or similar policy in the participation of all the religious groups, keeping special consideration to the practicality of religious minorities as mention in article 26-2. Allow the existing organization registered under NGO act or Company act to function as per their constitution on religious issues or make a provision to move such NGO’s or Company to the new provision.
 
4. Remove the sentence “convert another person from one religion to another or any act or conduct that may jeopardize other's religion” from the article 26-3.
 
5. Criminal code to be amended to remove the sections 155-159 to ensure that only unethical proselytizing is criminalized, and other vague terms are removed.
 
6. Make provision for the local governments at ward level to facilitate and provide funeral/burial places for all the religious groups according to their own practices.
 
 
Annex: List of some of the incidents against Christian community in Nepal
 
14 September, 2015
Bombs went off at two churches in Jhapa district, the churches suffered structural damage, but nobody was hurt, according to The Kathmandu Post.
 
9 June, 2016
Eight Christian and non-Christian arrested on accusation of attempting to convert children to Christianity through the distribution of a comic book while conducting trauma counselling sessions organised by Teach Nepal, a Kathmandu-based NGO
 
24 June, 2016
Chinimaya Case: Dhankuta; Human Trafficking and Religious Conversion
 
21 July 2016
Nepali church leaders found guilty of ‘witchcraft’ and ‘violence’ for helping mentally ill woman in Salyan
 
April 18, 2017
Arson attack at Assumption Catholic Church, Lalitpur
 
March, 2018
A Church in Hindugh, Dhading was burnt and temporally rebuilt as a temporary church which was again burnt down…so two buildings of the same church were burnt down in a span of three weeks.
 
22 March, 2018
Sonia Chanda Thakuri with 6 months old baby was arrested in accusation of attempting religious conversion and destroying Hindu idols on 7 March. She was released after a week but case is still going on
 
7 April, 2018
Hindu religious leader; Shree Niwas Acharya was shot in Biratnagar bazar near the Indo-Nepal border, Acharya was there to prepare a week-long Shreemat Bhagwat Saptaha; Ethnic minority (Mangol) group Christian by faith was blamed
 
30 April, 2018
Devi Rai and her friends were arrested in Chitwan in accusation of attempt to convert a Hindu family and encouraging them to destroy the Hindu idols; they were released after a few days of the arrest.
 
5 May, 2018
St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Kohalpur, Banke District was set on fire at around 1 am by unidentified arsonists. The people living in the vicinity of the church were told by the perpetrators to go into their homes and not to come out. Witnesses said that between eight and ten unidentified men then broke into the church, splashed petrol around it and set the church ablaze.
 
7 May, 2018
Hindu religious leader Shreeni, was arrested nearby Kathmandu airport on the charge of orchestrating own shooting on 7 April.
 
8 May, 2018
In initiation of Hindu Jagaran Nepal, Sumitra Gauli, Radhika Maharjan and
Phuldevi Bhattarai were arrested from their Church in Nagarjun-4, Sitapaila,
Kathmandu in accusation of trying to convert by luring of NGO job
 
9 May 2018
Six preachers in Teherathum were arrested, A vehicle registered in India was also taken into custody. Arrestee were Dinesh Subba, Jhapa; Ashish Subba,
Jhapa; Dipak Subba, Jhapa; Manatula Dhital, Jhapa; Barshiya Dhital,
Sikkim, India; and Pawan Rai, Paschim Bangal, India
 
9 May, 2018
Hebron Church in Hilihang Rural Municipality, Panchthar was set on fire at night. The church, which had concluded its youth conference earlier that day, was partially damaged in the fire; the pulpit, carpet and a number of pieces of furniture were damaged or destroyed. No one was in the church at the time of the attack.
 
10 May, 2018
Emmanuel Church, Doti was set on fire while Pastor Shyam Thapa was in his residence at the back of the church. He discovered the front of the church was on fire. With the help of local police, the fire was put under control and extinguished, although this could not be done before the fire caused significant damage to the door, furniture and electric wiring of the building.
 
11 May 2018
Emmanuel Church, Kanchanpur was set on fire. No parishioners were present inside the church during the arson attack, which was carried out at night by unknown assailants. Led by Pastor Dhirendra Rana, the church was started two years ago and served a congregation of 65 believers. The church suffered from significant structural damage as the main gates and windows were destroyed. Local sources have confirmed that police have been sent to investigate the attack.
 
13 May, 2018
Mahima Church, Dhangadhi was bombed by an unknown. The Church, which has operated for about 10 years, was partially destroyed after a bomb was thrown through a window that was also broken. Although police attribute the attack to the Biplab Maoist group, local sources cite threats by a Hindu extremist group over the past few weeks as a possible motive. Police investigations are ongoing.
 
19 May, 2018
An orphanage named New Vision Children's Home with 5 boys and 4 girls in Pokhara closed down by the government due to lack of legal registration.
Mrs Jyoti Gurung; wife of Pastor Chandra Gurung who was running home is arrested
 
19 May, 2018
In initiation of Hindu Jagaran Nepal, two Christians (Bhim Br. Pradhan and Nabin Kumar Mandal) were arrested in Belbari-3, Bhagbati Marga, Morang while they were presenting Christian materials through laptop. They are accused of speaking against Hindu gods and luring for conversion.
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