Two Korean Sisters in prison on conversion charges

The two women religious run a facility that provides housing, food, education, and medical care to poor children in Pokhara. Detained on 14 September, the two might face a bail hearing tomorrow. For the Apostolic Vicar of Nepal, the case shows “intolerance” towards the Church and is an “attack on minority communities”.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Two Korean missionary women religious from the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Paul of Chartres were arrested in Nepal on 14 September and are still in detention.

The two, Sisters Gemma Lucia Kim and Martha Park, were charged with proselytising and conversion activities, and arrested at their mission in Pokhara, 200 kilometres from Kathmandu, where they run a facility for poor slum children. 

They were kept in custody until 27 September when they were moved a district prison. The local Church has filed the get them released on bail but, so far, their application has been postponed due to Hindu holidays; it is hoped that a hearing can finally be held tomorrow.

In expressing his apprehension about the fate of the two women, Bishop Paul Simick, Apostolic Vicar of Nepal, issued a statement published by Aid to the Church in Need.

In his view, the “allegations “of conversions are utterly baseless and unjust. This act reveals not only bigotry on the part of those who accused the Sisters but also ignorance of the needs of the poor.”

The work of the two Sisters in Nepal has always been in favour of the downtrodden with an eye on the injustices of society.

The two “have been dedicating themselves totally to the poor for so many years. Therefore, we would like to call for an in-depth inquiry into what happened,” Bishop Simick said.

The elderly Sisters’ health is of particular concern, as it can worsen in detention.

"The Catholic community sees this event as an attack on minority communities with an intent to criminalise missionary activities,” the Apostolic Vicar noted. “The Sisters' initiatives, such as social services, education and medical care, are seen as a bait for conversion."

The local Church hopes to see the two Sisters released on bail soon so that they can resume their work taking care of the Happy Home community, a facility that provides housing, food, education, medical services and professional training to about 120 children in the slums of Pokhara. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, they handed out groceries to poor people in the district.

Nepal is a country with a small but growing Christian communities. However, hostility by fringe Hindu radicals is complicating the process of evangelisation as charges against Christians of forced conversions increase.