Nepal is known for its ancient history and breathtaking mountain peaks. But the South Asian nation not only debuted this year on Open Doors World Watch List of nations where Christians face the most persecution for their faith, it also landed as high as the No. 25 spot.
The key is to understand that although the government presents Nepal as a secular country, it's practically run by Hindu forces, said Pastor Bharat Giri, a full-time Christian minister of 24 years, who is now the chairman of a political party seeking to inspire and encourage Christians to stand up for their rights.
"We are dominated by India," Giri told The Christian Post, explaining that the injustice, negligence of people's needs, corruption, and human rights abuses affecting minority religious groups are on the rise.
"They are promoting only the Hindu people," he explained, noting that the minority Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists in the country are often left behind.
One of the major factors behind Nepal's deteriorating religious freedom rights has been legislation signed into law in October 2017 that criminalizes religious conversion. Giri said that it's heavily used to punish those who decide they want to become Christians.
C.B. Gahatraj, general secretary of the Federation of National Christians in Nepal, and other Christian leaders have demanded that the clause against evangelism be struck down, declaring that believers are not "vote banks" that can be lied to by politicians.
Giri spoke of several cases where Christians have suffered the consequences of anti-evangelism sentiment, even before the passage of the law last year.
"One-and-a-half years ago, in one district, Christians were giving out Christian tracts. And because of that, they were put in jail for nine months," he said, noting that the group of six to nine Christians was released, but the case is still going on.
Six months ago in East Nepal, there was another Christian woman who was "taking care of children, the poor children. She did not have money," the pastor said.
She was pressured by the government to come with the children to Kathmandu, the capital, but then she was arrested, charged with converting others to Christianity, and jailed for three months.
The woman was released after the initial jail period, but the court has now announced that she will have to spend three years in prison for the crime of religious conversions.
Not only that, but those who helped her and the poor children have also found themselves in serious trouble.
"I met this morning with one of the pastors in Kathmandu who was helping feed the children, and he was also told that he would be going to prison for one year," Giri said.
He noted several other incidents across the country where Christians are ending up in jail simply for their beliefs, arguing that believers can be accused by anyone at any time and end up behind bars.
"The whole justice system, the judges are Hindu," he said.
Other religious minorities have also been affected — Buddhists who eat cow meat have been jailed for killing an ox, which offended Hindu sensitives that deem cows to be sacred.
"They say this is a secular country, but they are continuously pushing people to jail" for their religious beliefs, Giri shared.