An attack on a church in Nepal’s Lumbini Province last Monday was just the latest in a string of recent violence against Christians in the country. The church is in the southern Nawalparasi district of Lumbini along the border with India’s Uttar Pradesh state and was one of two churches in the same town that were vandalised over the weekend.
Photos and videos obtained showed broken windows and other signs of violence around the property, including damage to fencing and a broken motorbike. Another photo shared on social media showed two men, identified as pastors, being assaulted on the street. Gathered locals appear to have smeared the pastors’ faces with a sticky black substance in an act described as a cultural sign of hatred and disrespect.
The attacks in Lumbini are the sixth and seventh such attacks against churches in Nepal in two weeks. “It’s spreading like wildfire,” a Nepalese civil society leader said about the recent spate of attacks. Perpetrators, seeing little to no response from the authorities in recent weeks, “are encouraged to act more,” he said.
News of another incident of men assaulting Christians, this time in Janakpur, emerged last Tuesday as word of Monday’s attack on the two pastors spread.
In Kathmandu, the country’s capital city, two men were apparently arrested and taken to court for street preaching. Though the country’s constitution ostensibly protects religious freedom, it does so in vague enough terms to allow a law today that criminalises proselytisation. Chapter 19 of the Muluki Ain, or general code of Nepal, states that “no one shall propagate any religion in such manner as to undermine the religion of other nor shall cause other to convert his or her religion.”
Religious minorities are regularly arrested and charged under this law, which goes beyond its neighbour India’s bans on forced conversions to criminalising participation in the act of conversion in any form. In Nepal, proselytisation carries with it the threat of up to six years in prison and subsequent deportation in the case of foreigners.