In a rash of recent actions against Christians in Nepal, an alcoholic who became violent during an intervention had Christian leaders arrested on forcible conversion charges, and a foreign couple was deported. Isak Tamang of the Shreejanga Free Church and pastor Dip Rai of the Chengbung Free Church were arrested on July 2 in Taplejung District, in eastern Nepal, accused of forcible conversion and assault. Two other Christians, David Limbu and Shristi Limbu, were arrested in the same case.
On July 6, the government deported De Vera Richard and his wife Rita Gonga on charges of forceful religious conversions. Richard is a citizen of Philippines, while his wife is an Indonesian national.
They were living in Nepal on a business visa granted on Nov. 28, 2017 and were working at a restaurant in Pulchowk, in Lalitpur Metropolitan City, known historically as Patan. The restaurant where they worked, Sigma, is operated by a Singaporean citizen.
The government alleges that the couple, which worshipped at Every Nations Church in Kumaripati, were functioning as pastors of the church, in violation of the terms and conditions of the business visa. They were fined 50,000 rupees (US$450). They were not jailed but have been barred from entering Nepal for a year.
The government reportedly looked into their case after a complaint was registered against them on May 21, prompting an investigation by the Department of Immigration.
“This decision of deportation of the couple is too much, especially when it comes from the government in a democratic country like Nepal,” said Pastor Subedi of the RLF-Nepal. “The government allows them to do business in our country, and because they are Christians, they will certainly attend a church and participate in the community.
“But objections are raised by the government when they practice their faith. We have many Indian pujaris [Hindu temple priests] and a lot of Thai monks in Nepal; the government seems to have no problems with them, but only with Christians.”
Evangelizing is prohibited under Nepal’s new constitution, passed in September 2015, as it was under the previous constitution. While the new constitution establishes Nepal as a secular and democratic republic, its definition of “secular” appears to protect Hinduism and allows others only to worship in their own faiths. Article 26 forbids anyone to “convert a person of one religion to another religion, or disturb the religion of other people.”