Kathmandu, four Christians arrested for 'forced conversion' of dalit
by Nirmala Carvalho

Two Japanese among arrested. An anti-conversion law is in force in the country that criminalizes all religious activity.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Four Christian women, two of whom were Japanese, were arrested in Nepal on charges of trying to convert some Dalits and nomads without land to Christianity by force. Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), told AsiaNews that "there is a law in the country that criminalizes religious conversions and states that no one can perform or encourage 'religious conversions'".

According to the Christian activist, the legislation contradicts the secular and democratic spirit of the first Nepalese constitution approved in 2015. "While this Constitution defines Nepal as a secular and democratic republic - he states - its definition of 'secular' seems to protect 'Hinduism".

The arrest took place on November 4 in the Butawal area, near the capital Kathmandu. The arrested women are: Yasura Owa, 49, and Makihikula, 44, both of Japanese nationality; Pushpa Ghimire, 25, and Tirthamaya Ghale, 35, Nepalese. According to some residents, they were attempting to proselytize door-to-door. This is why they were followed and their activities filmed. The films were then delivered to the police who proceeded with their arrest.

The Himalayan country was marked by a bloody civil war between Maoist rebels and security forces (1996-2006), which in 2008 led to the abolition of the absolute Hindu monarchy and the creation of a secular democracy. According to the 2011 census, adds Sajan K George, "Christians represent only 1.5% of the total population (29 million inhabitants). This is why the accusation of conversion is false ".

The Indian activist points out that "there have been so many incidents against Christians in Nepal, where foreigners have been deported on charges of forced conversions". "It seems - he concludes - that the administration is anxious to detain [the faithful] and to stop the Christian faith, given that the new Constitution does not give a prominent place to the Hindu religion".