People of Nepal have been dealing for months with the aftermath of an earthquake disaster. Now, the Asian nation faces a possible religious liberty disaster that could impact people's lives for years.
The Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission is part of an international Baptist effort to encourage the Nepal government to not include restrictions on religious liberty in its new constitution, as currently proposed.
Working with the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, the CLC staff is encouraging religious leaders to sign a letter to the Nepal government. This needs to happen quickly. To co-sign the letter, send an email with your name, professional title, and city/state/country by today, Friday, Aug. 14.
Nepal's proposed constitution says:
No one shall behave, act or undertake activities that breach public order or break public peace/peace in the community; and no one shall attempt to change or convert someone from one religion to another, or disturb/jeopardize the religion of others, and such acts/activities shall be punishable by law.
The Wilberforce letter drafted by former Texas Baptist Elijah Brown notes wisely that this proposal "nullifies and criminalizes the freedom to share, change, and choose one's religion."
Religion is communal by its very nature; therefore a person's decision to accept a particular religion or no religion can only take place with the assistance of others from within that religious community. Very few become Hindu except by being the taught by Hindus. The same is true for other religions.
In short, no religious conversion is possible without several "acts to convert another person from one religion to another." Since the proposed draft of the constitution criminalizes these acts, it in effect makes conversion impossible – and thereby completely denies the freedom of people to choose and change their religion. Section 31(3) would severely undermine freedom of religion in Nepal; an area that should be dictated by the voluntary adherence of citizens to the dictates of their conscience, rather than by the coercive force of law.
For more information, visit the 21st Century Wilberforce website.
It is great to have Wilberforce's Brown in the middle of this issue. The CLC sought Brown's involvement after we learned of the situation from our partners in the Baptist Relief and Development (BReaD) Network. We care both about the physical and spiritual needs of the people in Nepal, as we do for people throughout the world.
Please sign the letter if you get this notice in time. And also pray the people of Nepal will have the freedom to form their own religious convictions.