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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Korean missionary nuns held in Nepal on conversion charges

Two Catholic nuns from South Korea have been detained in Nepal after they were arrested on charges of converting Hindus by coercion and allurement.

Sister Gemma Lucia Kim and Sister Martha Park Byongsuk of the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres congregation were arrested on Sept. 14. They were kept in police custody until Sept. 27 when they were sent to the district prison after bail was denied.

As per Christian groups, the nuns ‘work’ among poor slum children in Pokhara, about 200 kilometers from capital Kathmandu. Bishop Paul Simick, the apostolic vicar of Nepal, said the Catholic community of the country is ‘shocked’ to hear about the verdict of the court rejecting the bail application.

Catching them young, or preaching to the 4/14 window i.e. to children in the developmental window between the ages of 4 and 14, is a know missionary tactic.

A church official, on condition of anonymity, told Catholic propaganda news outlet UCA News that initially the Church hierarchy thought of not publicizing the arrests as they thought “it could lead to Hindu fundamentalists and Nepal’s anti-Christian media exaggerating facts”.

“They will make their reports sound like the nuns were converting everyone in the guise of charity works,” he said. Another two Koreans — a lay Catholic and a Protestant pastor — have also been arrested and detained on similar charges, the source said.

The UCA News report goes on to play the time-tested persecution card used to whitewash Christian missionary work by claiming, “for decades, Christians have faced various levels of persecution in the Himalayan Hindu-majority nation.”

About 81 percent of Nepal’s estimated 29 million people are Hindu, while Buddhists account for 9 percent, Muslims 4.4 percent and Christians 1.4 percent, according to the 2011 census. There are about 10,000 Catholics in Nepal, church sources say. Protestants and Evangelical Christians are estimated to be 1.5 million, according to an official from Nepal Christian Society. However, the chairman of Federation of National Christian Nepal quoted in another UCA News article claims there are 3 million Christians in Nepal.

Such conflicting figures from the Christian conversion industry should not come as a surprise. They have mastered the art of speaking with different voices based on the audience and context, and the problem of crypto-Christianity is widespread in both Bharat and Nepal.

The World Database of Christians records Nepal’s Christian communities as one of the ‘fastest growing’ in the world. This means that Church planting groups and bigoted evangelists who degrade Hindu Dharma as ‘satan worship’ are eyeing Nepal as a fertile ground for soul harvesting. And wherever missionaries are having success in eradicating indigenous religions and cultures, they accuse governments in such regions even more shrilly of ‘persecution’ to create additional pressure in name of ‘religious freedom’ to allow for even more aggressive evangelism.

While Catholics and Protestants have their differences, when it comes to evangelism and ‘spreading God’s word’ they work in tandem. The Catholics are more than happy to use their reputation as education and healthcare providers to cover for the openly hate-spewing evangelical Protestants like Pentecostals etc.

Not surprisingly, UCA News reports that “Christian groups and rights watchdogs have reported ‘increasing hostility and persecution’ against Christians in Nepal in recent times.” B.P. Khanal, a Christian writer and politician in Nepal, told UCA News in September that at least nine Christian men and women including pastors were facing court cases in Nepal on conversion charges.

Christians including pastors and ‘aid workers’ have been charged with conversion efforts, while foreign priests and nuns have been denied visas and forced to leave Nepal, Christian groups reported.

After Nepal’s devastating earthquake in 2015, Christian groups and aid agencies were found using humanitarian grounds to spread their religious beliefs among victims in need of help. This led to debates and policy-level interventions that included scrapping the registrations of international NGOs involved in preaching religious beliefs. This is another widely used conversion tactic which was on view in Bharat too after the 2004 tsunami.

In 2017, Nepal’s parliament approved a new criminal code punishing all religious conversions as well as all activities of evangelisation and proselytising. The law applies to both Nepali citizens and foreigners (missionaries included) and came into effect in August 2018.

The new law states that anybody who encourages or is involved in religious conversion using any means will be booked under a criminal offense and will face a jail term of five years and a fine of 50,000 Nepalese rupees (US$445). Any foreigner found guilty of encouraging or promoting religious conversions will be deported within a week.

Christian groups based in the West have been up in arms against this new law with a slew of propaganda articles against it including in business magazines like Forbes, despite the law banning all religious proselytization and not targeting Christianity specifically.

But that again is not surprising – for Christian fanatics and missionaries, proselytization is central to their faith, and any act taken by a sovereign nation to protect non-proselytizing, fragile indigenous faiths becomes an ‘assault on religious freedom’!

It must be noted that Nepal has had criminal provisions prohibiting the act of converting a person from one religion to another since 1958. Sections 1 and 1A of Chapter 19 of the Country Code (Muluki Ain), 1963, in force until the entry into force of the recently adopted Penal Code on 17 August 2018, criminalized propagating “any religion in such manner as to undermine the religion of others” or causing others to convert their religion. The offence carried a punishment of three to six years’ imprisonment upon conviction.

So why this angst among Christian groups over the new 2017/18 criminal code? The frustration stems from the fact that after the abolishment of Nepal’s Constitutional Hindu monarchy following a civil war launched by Communists, missionaries were expecting a free run in secular Nepal.

However, despite power being captured by atheist communists, Nepal has maintained its Hindu identity. The latest constitution of Nepal was promulgated in 2015 when communists were in power. They tried to make a secular constitution, which it nominally is, but were met with firm resistance from the people. Ultimately, many provisions for protection of Hindu Dharma were incorporated in the constitution. Article 4 of the constitution of Nepal declares it to be “an independent, indivisible, sovereign, secular, inclusive democratic, socialism-oriented federal democratic republican state.” However, the definition of the word secular is given as :-

‘secular’ means protection of religion and culture being practiced since ancient times and religious and cultural freedom.

What this means is that as a secular state, Nepal will still have to protect Hindu Dharma and Bauddh Dharma, both of which are being practiced in Nepal since ancient times.

Bharat has a lot to learn from tiny Nepal. Both in terms of evolving its Constitution and enacting laws as a sovereign nation keeping interests of the majority in mind, and in implementing those laws without hesitation despite hue & cry by well-networked international forces inimical to the nation.

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