By BosNewsLife Asia Service
KATHMANDU, NEPAL (BosNewsLife)– An advocacy group has urged Nepal’s assembly meant to write a new constitution and serve as Parliament to guarantee religious freedom of Christians and other minorities, amid calls for a constitutional ban on all conversions to Christianity or other religions.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) told BosNewsLife it asked Nepal’s Constituent Assembly to follow recommendations of the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
Chairman Anup Raj Sharma said in published remarks that “the state should be secular and guarantee rights to more minorities”, including Christians, “protecting them from the Hindu majority” in the Himalayan nation.
And, the NHRC official pledged to defend freedom of conscience,saying “every citizen would have the right to choose his or her faith”.
The umbrella National Christian Federation had earlier requested that the government guarantees freedom of conscience for all religious minorities in the Himalayan nation.
Yet not everyone agrees. “In the last few months there have been calls by prominent political leaders in Nepal for a constitutional ban on all conversions from one religion to another…A powerful new alliance which includes many members of the governing Congress Party is calling for Nepal to return to its former status as a Hindu state,” CSW said in a statement Thursday, November 20.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas added that this would require a well-formulated constitution. “It is vital that Mr. Sharma’s recommendation is reflected in the precise wording of the constitutional clauses dealing with religious affairs.”
He said his group, which closely monitors the situation has urged the government and Constituent Assembly members “to ensure that calls to ban conversions are resisted.”
Thomas explained that the new constitution should guarantee “freedom of religion or belief, as outlined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, signed and ratified by Nepal.”
That Covenant allows every person to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.
Tensions surrounding the constitution have underscored the political turmoil in what was the only official Hindu kingdom till May 28, 2008, when the assembly agreed to abolish the monarchy and make Nepal a republic.
Political groups have been unable to agree on Nepal’s new constitution required by a peace agreement which ended a bloody conflict with Maoist rebels who fought against the monarchy.
Decade-long fighting left more than 12,000 people dead and 100,000 people displaced in what is already one of the world’s poorest nations, according to United Nations estimates.
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