Parsons issues call to prayer for Nepal Christians Proposals would restrict religious rights, foes say

The PC(USA) partners ecumenically in Nepal through the United Mission
to Nepal (UMN), which appealed to its partners to issue the call to prayer.
The interim constitution in Nepal, adopted in 2007, declares the
country a secular state, gives every citizen freedom of opinion and
expression and the right to “profess, practice and preserve his/her
own religion as handed down to him/her in ancient times.”

However, four provisions of the newly proposed law jeopardize those
freedoms, according to preliminary analysis of the legislation by UMN:
* “No one shall perform action with the intention to hate or
insult/undermine any caste, creed, communal or group’s religious
faith…”
* “No one shall perform any act to undermine any religious feeling in
writing, words, figures or symbols or by any other act to undermine
any caste, creed, communal or group/class…”
* “No one shall put obstacles deliberately on the religious rituals
which have been in practice and in existence from the time
immemorial.”
* “No one shall convert anyone’s religion or propagate or humiliate
others’ religion. No one shall perform any act or behavior that will
interfere in others’ religion … or convert to another religion or propagate religion or
faith either by enticing or not enticing.”

While acknowledging that “several of these clauses could provide
substantial protection to religious faith and observance, particularly
for minority faiths like Christianity,” UMN expressed “grave concerns about some
parts of these laws, and the potential impact on Christians, churches and Christian
organizations, as well as other minority religious groups.” The provision about
conversion, for instance, “seems so broad that almost any religious practice could

potentially be in breach of the law,” UMN Executive Director Mark Galpin said in a
letter to UMN supporters.

Other concerns, Galpin added, revolve around whether the “time
immemorial” language means the law refers only to Hinduism and
Buddhism, which have far longer histories in Nepal than Christianity
and Islam, and “whether discriminatory practices which are embedded in
religious belief ― like the caste system, for example, or inequitable
treatment of women and girls ― would be protected from scrutiny or
criticism.”

The full text of Parsons’ call to prayer:

“New legislation is being formulated in Nepal that greatly concerns our
Christian brothers and sisters. According to our partners, the
proposed codes contain clauses that that could provide substantial
protection to religious faith and observance, particularly for
minority faiths like Christianity. However, our partners also raise
grave concerns about the potential impact of other provisions of the
proposed codes on Christians, churches and Christian organizations, as
well as other minority religious groups. Out of our concern for our
partners and the other people of Nepal, out of the historic
Presbyterian commitment to religious freedom, and in response to the
specific request of our partners, I invite you to pray for Nepal.

“Please remember all the people of Nepal in your prayer. Please
remember the Christians and members of other religious minorities who
feel vulnerable and fearful as new laws are being developed. Please
also pray for the government and leaders of Nepal that they might
govern wisely and fairly and make decisions that will respect the
freedoms of religion, opinion, belief and expression of all the Nepali
people.”

*The Rev. Mark Koenig, director of the Presbyterian Ministry at the
United Nations in New York, furnished information for this story.

ShareShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail to someone

Leave a Reply