The Nepalese president is expected to approve a bill that will outlaw any attempt to convert someone to a different faith, as well as the “hurting of religious sentiment”.
The country’s parliament passed the law, which will effectively ban evangelisation, on August 8 as fears grow of a crackdown on religious minorities.
Anyone convicted under the new law, including foreign visitors, could face up to five years in prison for seeking to convert a person or “undermine the religion, faith or belief that any caste, ethnic group or community has been observing since sanatan times”. The word sanatan denotes traditional, non-reformist Hinduism.
Anyone who “hurts religious sentiment” also faces up to two years in prison and a 2,000-rupee fine. The wording of the law echoes that of Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws, which criminalise any speech or gesture that seeks to “wound” religious feeling.
Alliance for Defending Freedom (ADF), a civil liberties group, said that last year eight Christians were arrested in Nepal after sharing a comic book on Jesus with children.
Since the overthrow of the monarchy in 2008, Nepal’s regime has become increasingly authoritarian, with Maoists and Leninists struggling to establish a stable government.
A constitution, approved in 2015, already forbids any attempt to convert a person from one religion to another, but no law to that effect has been formally enacted until now.
Tehmina Arora, director of ADF India, said: “Nepal risks returning to a totalitarian society in which individual rights are being severely curbed.” Nepal is over 80 per cent Hindu. Christians make up about one per cent of the population.
Chile’s constitutional court backs new abortion law
Chile’s constitutional court has ruled in favour of a law liberalising abortion.
In March last year, Chile’s lower house of Congress approved a bill that allowed abortion in cases of rape, when there is a health risk for the mother or when the child is not viable. The bill was later approved by the senate, but opponents challenged it in the constitutional court.
A coalition of opposition parties argued that the law violated Article 19 of the Chilean constitution, which guarantees the right to life of the unborn child.
Cristóbal Aguilera, legislative adviser of Community and Justice, told ACI Prensa that opponents of the law would continue fighting to make sure it was restricted as much as possible in practice.
Patricia Gonnelle, legislative coordinator of Chile es Vida, described the verdict as a “historic mistake” and a “very sad day”. She said it was “very serious” that the law now says the child in the womb is “not a person with rights”. She explained that pro-life groups “will carry on doing what they always do, which is helping women in situations of conflict and much pain”.
Colombia awaits historic papal visit
Colombia is making its final preparations for Pope Francis’s visit, the first papal trip to Colombia for 31 years, which starts on Wednesday.
President Juan Manuel Santos said the visit was a “privilege” that “fills us with gratitude”. Last week, to mark the forthcoming visit, 20 priests heard Confessions in a shopping centre near Bogotá.
Having been unable to sell in churches for well over a year due to the pandemic, we are now inviting readers to support the Herald by investing in our future. We have been a bold and influential voice in the church since 1888, standing up for traditional Catholic culture and values.
Please join us on our 130 year mission by supporting us. We are raising £250,000 to safeguard the Herald as a world-leading voice in Catholic journalism and teaching. For more information from our chairman on contributing to the Herald Patron's Fund, click here
Make a Donation
Donors giving £500 or more will automatically become sponsor patrons of the Herald. This includes two complimentary print/digital gift subscriptions, invitations to Patron events, pilgrimages and dinners, and 6 gift subscriptions sent to priests, seminaries, Catholic schools, religious care homes and prison and university chaplaincies. Click here for more information on becoming a Patron Sponsor. Click here for more information about contributing to the Herald Patron's Fund