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    » 11/12/2014, 00.00

    NEPAL

    Nepal's Human Rights Commission says yes to freedom of conscience

    Cristopher Sharma

    The commission's president will discuss the need to ensure full rights for minorities with the country's prime minister and president. In his view, "The state should be secular". Converting to Christianity still elicits opposition at present.

    Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has pledged to defend freedom of conscience whereby every citizen will have the right to choose his or her faith, said NHRC president Anup Raj Sharma, after his organisation received a petition from the National Christian Federation, asking that the state guarantee full freedom of conscience to religious minorities.

    The state agency has already turned the request over to the government and will soon meet with the prime minister and the president of Nepal.

    "In 1990 some people who had converted to Christianity from Hinduism were sent to prison," said Sharma, a former chief justice of the Supreme Court. "I issued orders for their release."

    At that time, Nepal was an absolute monarchy under a Hindu dynasty and there was no freedom of religion. After 2006, when the king was stripped of his powers, the country became a democracy.

    However, only recently have religious minorities, especially Christians and Muslims, been allowed to build their own places of worship and celebrate religious services in public.

    Hinduism remains the religion of the majority, 81.3 per cent of the population. Buddhists (9 per cent) and Muslims (4.4 per cent) are the largest majorities. Christians represent 1.4 per cent of the population.

    Although religious freedom exists, conversion to Christianity is still opposed.

    "The state should be secular and guarantee more rights to minorities, protecting them from the Hindu majority," NHRC president said.

    "The NHRC is ready to fight for the rights of all citizens of Nepal. Christians have my word: I will raise the Christian voice before the competent authority."

    Sharma also criticised the "ignorance" shown by the authorities in allocating land for Christian cemeteries. He described the issue as "very serious."

    Sundar Thapa, president of the National Christian Federation, noted that "if the government denies Christians their rights, a hunger strike will begin in different parts of the country."

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    See also

    30/09/2004 PAKISTAN
    Anti-blasphemy law: harassment and violence for all religions alike
    Even a minister admits that the law to defend Islam gets abused.  Four thousand reports of blasphemy against Islam since 1986

    03/05/2006 NEPAL
    New cabinet sworn in after Koirala mediates
    Nepal's new PM names the members of his new cabinet. Many ordinary Nepalis are disappointed by the 48-hour delay and divisions among opposition parties.

    03/09/2013 NEPAL
    Kathmandu: Christians have no right to a cemetery
    The measure, which was to "preserve the sanctity of the soil near the Hindu shrine of Pashupatinath" compels a minority to seek burial sites concealed in the forest or near the rivers. Christian leader: "We fear that the Nepalese Hindu faith profane our graves." The government does not respond to the requests of the faithful.

    25/07/2008 NEPAL
    Nepali nationalists call for vice-president’s resignation
    A day after the vice-president’s oath of office, protests continue against Paramananda Jha because he made his inaugural address in Hindi and wore traditional Indian clothes. The leader of the Communist Party (Maoist) sets conditions for forming national unity government.

    25/04/2006 NEPAL
    Power back to parliament, opposition names new prime minister in Kathmandu
    A former prime minister, 83-year-old Girija Prasad Koirala from the Nepalese Congress Party, is appointed. The first step of the new government will be peace with the Maoists, a party leader tells AsiaNews.



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