Nepal Christians Fear Religious Discrimination as Prime Minister Resigns

Whilst the Nepali government has lost its prime minister during the struggle in drafting a new constitution, the country's Christians and other religions minorities are rallying to ensure that they will be ensured of their religious freedom.

Nepal’s Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal, resigned on Sunday after serving only six-months as the country's political leader. Kahanal stated a deadlock in negotiations with the Maoist political party over how many Maoist former combatants should serve as allied security forces as the main reason for his resignation.

"The prime minister resigned for the formation of a national consensus government," the prime minister's press adviser Surya Thapa has said, according to CNN.

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"The Maoists did not seem to be ready to agree on the various aspects of the integration of the combatants into the security forces."

Continuing arbitration with the Maoist party, as well as within the Nepali Congress, over the details of a new constitution has also been a major source of unrest. After ten years of civil war, the current constitution is scheduled to expire on August 21.

Commentators say that if the constitution expires and Nepal is forced into a situation whereby it has no official government, the circumstances could be tumultuous. It has also been noted that if a constitution is not developed and instated by August 21, Nepal's president, Ram Baran Yadav may instate an election where it will be voted whether the Nepali government will be run by its current Congress or the Maoist party.

Meanwhile, Nepali Christians and other religious minorities, Muslims and Buddhists have expressed fear for their religious freedom, which could be hindered even more so under a new constitution or a new government regime.

Christians, Muslims and Buddhists in the mostly Hindu country have established the Inter-Religious Secularism Projection Movement to advocate for churches, mosques and monasteries and other non-Hindu institutions to be registered as religious bodies. They are currently looked at by the Nepali government as personal property and are not exempt of taxes, as are Hindu religious institutions.

"When Nepal became secular in 2006, we hoped we too would be entitled to the same benefits. Our churches face litigation and closure because the government still refuses to recognize them as religious institutions," IRSPM spokesman Charu Bahadur Gahatraj said.

Gahatraj is also a Protestant pastor.

Supporters of the movement are urging the government to instate a Religion Commission and a Religious Act that will observe the rights of all faith-based organizations in the country and be detailed within the impending constitution.

With the August 21 deadline for the new constitution quickly approaching, the IRSPM hopes that negotiations will not be extended, and that proposals to make it illegal to convert between religions will be rejected.

In a written comment, the IRSPM states that the citizens of Nepal should be free to follow any religion they wish, convert to another religion if they so choose and have the freedom to preach their own religion if they desire.

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