Even though new anti-conversion language was added to Nepal's constitution in 2015 to punish Christians and Nepalese of other religions for sharing their faith, the South Asian country remains one of the world's fastest-growing Christian nations.
The Tide director Don Shenk – whose radio ministry has broadcast its gospel message in Nepal since 2004 – is elated that for more than a decade, Nepal has opened the door to spread God's Word with his programming. The ministry added the Tharu language to the Nepali language in 2013 to reach millions of more listeners, but new constitutional changes two years later had made coming to Christ more difficult for Nepalese.
"Nepal has historically been a Hindu stronghold, but in 2008, the nation drafted an interim constitution that gave Nepali citizens some religious freedom rights," Shenk explains in press release issued by The Tide last week. "This change also allowed more ministries like The Tide to make inroads in Nepal, but in 2015, a new constitution was adopted after government officials debated for several years.
"At that time, Nepal was officially established as a secular country, and its citizens were given religious liberties – but simultaneously, anti-conversion language was added to the constitution, making it punishable for Christians and other believers to share their faith with their family, friends, neighbors or co-workers."
The Tide's ministry – which broadcasts in 25 languages over eight nations – continues to share hope in Nepal amidst the recent fear of persecution that has silenced many Nepali Christians and isolated them, but listeners, such as Sampat, still share the blessings and benefits they and their families continue to experience from the spoken Word of God.
"I am a retired teacher and now involved in social work," Sampat told The Tide. "I belong to a non-Christian family, and I did not like to listen [to] good Christian programs, but one day, through one of my friends, I came to know about the radio program that is being broadcasted in Tharu language called 'Anmol Zindagi.' After hearing this program for a month, the Lord spoke to me through His Word, and I was immensely blessed and had a new experience."
Sampat quickly spread the gospel message heard on the radio with loved ones.
"When I shared my experience with my family members, they also decided to listen to this program … and were blessed," the new Christian convert continued. "This program helped us to gain good knowledge and also [showed] how each of us would become a good person, such as listening to the Word of God, studying the Bible and also walking in the fear of the Lord."
Growing despite anti-Christian measure
For more than a decade, Christianity has continued to spread rapidly in Nepal – a nation that formerly had little tolerance for other religions to be shared, being predominantly Hindu.
"[T]he latest figures suggest that there are now approximately 13,000 churches in the former Hindu kingdom," International Christian Concern (ICC) reported earlier this month. "Until 2008, Nepal was officially a Hindu kingdom with little Christian mission work allowed in the nation, [but] that changed with the nation installed an interim constitution that provided Nepal's citizens with some religious freedom rights and opened the doors to Christian mission work."
As a result, today there are more than seven times as many Christians in Nepal than there were just over a decade ago.
"Since then, the Christian community of Nepal has grown from 0.2% of the country's population to an estimated 1.5%," ICC informed. "According to Christian leaders in Nepal, 65% of Christians come from the country's low caste communities."
After seven years of debate over religious freedom, a new constitution was adopted by Nepal in 2015 – with pros and cons for believers.
"In that constitution, Nepal was established as a secular nation that affirms the religious freedom rights of all its citizens; however, within the same article establishing religious freedom, Nepal adopted constitutional language that limited their citizens' rights to share their religious beliefs with others," lCC added.
Then comes the anti-conversion language.
"Article 26 (3) states, 'no person shall… convert another person from one religion to another or [perform] any act or conduct that may jeopardize [another's] religion," the report cited. "Later, this restriction was codified by a criminal bill that added, 'Nobody should hurt the religious sentiment of any caste, ethnic community or class by writing, through voice/talk or by a shape or symbol in any other such manner."