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UN rights review gives Nepal Catholics hope

Constitution does not adequately protect religious freedom, they say

UN rights review gives Nepal Catholics hope
Catholics praying during Mass at Assumption Church (File photo) reporter Kathmandu

January 20, 2011

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Catholics in Nepal hope the latest UN Human Rights Council review of rights in the former Hindu kingdom, which starts Jan. 24, will examine what they see as breaches of international law concerning religious freedom and discrimination against women. A number of issues raised by Catholic individuals have been addressed in reports submitted by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Nepal and a group of 238 Nepalese NGOs to the UN Human Rights Council. According to the European Center for Law and Justice, the Nepalese interim constitution which established a secular state in 2007 has not adequately protected religious freedom because it bans proselytizing. Father Robin Rai, assistant parish priest of Kathmandu’s Assumption Church (and recently appointed national youth Chaplain for Nepal) said Nepal’s ban on individuals professing their faith and evangelization is a violation of international law. He said: “We are not for proselytizing, what we do is charity. But we have to have rights to profession of faith, which all the religious community in Nepal have been doing.” Father Rai said that the majority of Christians in Nepal are from marginalized dalit, tribal and ethnic communities who had earlier converted into Hinduism leaving behind their own natural religions (animism) due to the Hinduization process in Nepal’s history. He said: “ There is always risk for religious minorities. A high level inter- religious commission without any political influences should be established so that all can use religious freedom without any fear.” He said that in some remote areas, Christians are sometimes accused of witchcraft because of the color of the dresses they wear and because cultural practices may differ from local communities. They are forced to leave their homes. Nepalese NGOs claim there are 62 existing laws that are discriminatory against women and another 49 containing degrading and prejudicial provisions against women. The review is a process scheduled to take place in every UN member country every four years. NP12926.1637
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