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Nepal: Pastor Sentenced to Prison under Proselytism Law

In the mid-twentieth century, there were no Christians at all in Nepal. Now their official number is approaching 400,000, and some Christian leaders in Nepal believe the actual number of Christians in the country is 2.3 million. 

For more ChristianPersecution.com coverage of the persecution of Christians in Nepal, see here.

“Pastor in Nepal Sentenced to Prison under Proselytism Law,” Morning Star News, December 25, 2021:

NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – A pastor in Nepal forced to pay exorbitant bail amounts for three separate cases was sentenced to two years in prison on Nov. 30 under a law against proselytizing, sources said.

The Dolpa District Court sentenced 33-year-old pastor Keshab Raj Acharya of Abundant Harvest Church, Pokhara to two years in prison and a fine of US$167 under the country’s proselytization law. It was the country’s first conviction for proselytizing under the criminal code that went into effect in Nepal in August 2018.

Pastor Acharya’s wife said she was shocked that he was convicted and unexpectedly sent to prison the same day, Nov. 22, a week before formal sentencing on Nov. 30.

“Keshab went to the court for his regular hearing. We had no idea that he would be convicted that day and not return home,” Junu Acharya told Morning Star News. “We were completely shaken at the news of his arrest. I had not even imagined in the wildest of my dreams that this could happen. He had not forced anybody to change their religion, so I was confident that he would never have to go to jail for something that he has not done.”

Pastor Acharya was granted bail pending appeal on Dec. 19 and reached home on Friday (Dec. 24), reuniting with his family on Christmas Eve.

The pastor had spent nearly four months in jail after his initial arrest last year, and he has since paid three bail amounts considered exorbitant in Nepal for three separate cases. First arrested on March 23, 2020 on charges of spreading false information for saying prayers can heal the novel coronavirus, Pastor Acharya had been released the following April 8 only to be re-arrested moments later on charges of “outraging religious feelings” and “proselytizing.”

He was released on July 3, 2020 after paying bail equal to about US$2,500, sources said.

Harassment

Junu Acharya said prosecution of her husband was a government tactic to make an example of him as a sign to Nepal’s Christians of the consequences of spreading the gospel.

“I feel it is a pre-planned strategy, and that is why Pastor Keshab’s case has been stretched so much,” she said. “They have surrounded him from three sides and twisted the cases. It seems evident that he is being intentionally framed.”

She said that Hindu extremists are intimidated by the growth of Christianity in Nepal.

“They feel that if more and more people become Christian, their religion will go extinct,” she said. “Pastor Keshab’s arrest and conviction is a message to the Christian community at large. They feel that if they punish Keshab, others will see and learn a lesson from his conviction. So, they have intentionally targeted him.”

Junu Acharya said the police investigation found one person who claimed that Pastor Acharya had tried to convert him.

“One person came forward and said that Pastor Keshab had given him a religious tract in Dolpa and asked him to follow his religion,” she said, adding that he had indeed gone to Dolpa and distributed tracts but did not ask anyone to forsake their religion for Christianity or offer any allurements such as money.

“He distributed tracts to many people that day,” Junu Acharya said. “The people to whom he had distributed the tracts acknowledged before the police that they had been given the same, but they also mentioned that Acharya had not asked them to convert or follow his religion while handing over the tracts. They said that ‘He gave us a paper, we read it, tore it and threw it away,’ that’s all.”…

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