Religious tensions in Secular Nepal!

In recent times, there have been several interesting articles in the Nepali media discussing religion in secular Nepal. Christianity, communism & constitution by Achyut Wagle and Christianity, freedom of choice & democracy by Sraddha Thapa have appeared in MyRepublica. Notes on a Religion is an article by Robin Giri in EKantipur.

In his article, Achyut Wagle argues that any secular state must ensure that any form of forced conversions is made punishable by law and this statement is particularly aimed at the Christian missionaries in Nepal. He boldly makes the statement that "all major donors who are supposedly providing financial support to Nepal, almost without exception, have dormant if not explicit agenda of furthering Christianity". This article is in support of a law against forced conversions in the new Constitution of Nepal.

Sradda Thapa's article is a direct response to Achyut's article. In it she argues that "we are not Christians because our parents were. We are not Hindus, even if the state says we are. We are Christians because we choose it for ourselves". She goes on to say that when she became a Christian, she "had to declare to everyone present that she was not doing this out of coercion, for money or a job, that it was of my free will and that should the state return to its days of persecution where imprisonment and death were an option for becoming Christian, it was my personal decision". She raises one very important question in her article - "If the fear is of a diminishing Hindu population, shouldn’t the objective be to share the merits of Hinduism rather than attack that of Christianity".  

In his article, Robin Giri writes that only pupils who left school as Christians probably came that way when referring to his schooling year at a Christian school in Darjeeling. He puts the good and mostly the bad points of Hinduism forward - "Hinduism is supposedly the most benevolent religion" yet at the same time, Hinduism is the only religion where you have to be born a Hindu and cannot convert into one. He argues that if he was "a dalit who was barred from entering a temple or drinking from a well" he would convert to any other religion and not just Christianity.

The recent incident of a Buddhist nun being gang raped in Nepal is another incident that raises an interesting question about Buddhism. Apparently, according to the rules, if a Buddhist nun loses her celibacy (voluntarily or involuntarily) she can no longer be a nun. And the Christian community in Nepal has commented on the issue stating that the church would not throw out a raped nun. Pastor Robin Rai of the Catholic church in Nepal said the church would not throw out a raped nun. "She is the victim. To us, she is still a virgin. She remains a nun as long as she belongs to Christ."

These articles show the religious tensions in secular Nepal. As a Nepali Hindu, I do believe that if we want to preserve our two home-grown religions of Hinduism and Buddhism, we have to become more progressive. Nepal has passed a law against caste-based discrimination and untouchability. But in order to prevent more and more people from converting from Hinduism to other religions, this law has to be supported by the wider Hindu community and Dalits and the Janjatis have to feel that they belong to the Hindu community and not feel oppressed and discriminated. But when will this happen? Only when all of us become progressive!