Information on the treatment of Christians [NPL24976.E]

Article 19 of the constitution of Nepal states that

(1) Every person shall have the freedom to profess and practise his own religion as handed down to him from ancient times having due regard to traditional practices:

Provided that no person shall be entitled to convert another person from one religion to another.

(2) Every religious denomination shall have the right to maintain its independent existence and for this purpose to manage and protect its religious places and trusts (Sharma June 1994, 20).

In addition, the constitution states that Nepal is a Hindu nation (ibid., 9), but, according to Country Reports 1995, "it does not establish Hinduism as the state religion" (Apr. 1996, 1329). In 1992, according to Contemporary Religions: A World Guide, about 90 per cent of Nepal's 19 million citizens were Hindu, with less than 2 per cent Christian (Harris 1992, 447). A London-based news service operated by Overseas Missions, an international Christian missionary group, reported in March 1996 that the number of Christians in Nepal was growing quickly, with 300,000 to 400,000 worshipping in 2,000 churches across the country (News Bytes Mar. 1996).

According to Country Reports 1995, "Although the government has generally not interfered with the practices of other religions, conversion is prohibited and punishable with fines or imprisonment, and police occasionally harass members of minority religions" (1330). Eleven Christians were arrested for proselytizing in September 1994 and sentenced to two year's imprisonment (ibid.; Amnesty International 1996, 234). According to Amnesty International, one of the eleven was a Nepali national, another was Indian, and the nine remaining were Bhutanese (Amnesty International 1996, 234). Country Reports 1995 reported that the eleven were pardoned and released in November 1995 (Apr. 1996, 1330).

In January 1995 the World Hindu Federation reportedly expressed concern over the spread of Christianity in Nepal, and called on the Nepalese government to stop the conversions in order to protect the Hindu religion (Kyodo News International 16 Jan. 1995). A 3 December 1994 report in the Durham, North Carolina Herald-Sun quotes an American missionary in Nepal, Ellen Collins, as saying that since 1990 Christians have been able to work with much greater freedom in Nepal. However, a 24 April 1995 report from Christianity Today quotes missionary Robert Karthak as indicating that despite Christianity's strong growth in Nepal in recent years, Christians "are still treated as second-class citizens."

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the DIRB within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Amnesty International. 1996. Amnesty International Report 1996. London: Amnesty International.

Christianity Today [Carol Stream, Illinois]. 24 April 1995. Timothy C. Morgan. "From One City to the World: Bill Graham's Most Ambitious Crusade Transcends Racial, Cultural, and Class Barriers, as well as Time Zones." (NEXIS)

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 1995. April 1996. United States Department of State. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office.

Harris, Ian et al. 1992. Contemporary Religions: A World Guide. The High, Harlow, Essex: Longman Group UK.

The Herald-Sun [Durham, N.C.]. 3 December 1994. Bob Connors. "Couple with a Mission: They Focus on Development in Familiar Nepal." (NEXIS)

Kyodo News International. 16 January 1995. "Hindus Worry About Conversions to Christianity in Nepal." (NEXIS)

News Bytes [London]. March 1996. "Church in Nepal." (Internet:

Sharma, Kunjar M., et al. June 1994. "Nepal." Constitutions of the Countries of the World." Edited by Albert P. Blaustein and Gisbert H. Flanz. Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana Publications.