By Jeremy Reynalds, Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service (email@example.com)
CHARIKOT, NEPAL (ANS-Dec. 10, 2016) — Eight Christians in Charikot, Nepal, who were accused of attempting to convert children to Christianity through the distribution of a comic book, were acquitted on Dec. 6.
According to a news release from British based human rights organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Prakash Pradhan, Bimal Shahi, Banita Dangol, Balkrishna Rai, Philip Tamang, Kiran Dahal, Bhimsen Tiwari and Shakti Pakhrin were arrested in June 2016.
The group was held in police custody for nine days and poorly treated in prison. Before being released on bail, local police officials charged them with attempting to convert children to Christianity through distributing a comic book which explains the story of Jesus.
The charges are thought to be the first in Nepal’s history in which Article 26 (3) of the new constitution was quoted.
CSW reported it says, “No person shall, in the exercise of the right conferred by this Article…convert another person from one religion to another or any act or conduct that may jeopardize other’s religion and such act shall be punishable by law.”
The arrests took place following two trauma counseling sessions organized by Teach Nepal, a Kathmandu-based non-governmental organization (NGO), at two schools in Charikot.
The sessions tried to address the psychological needs of children affected by the earthquakes in Nepal in April 2015 and were held on June 8 and 9 at Modern Nepal School and Mount Valley Academy in Charikot.
At the end of the sessions, CSW reported, the organizers distributed a small gift pack to the children, which included a 23-page Christian comic book.
The final hearing in the case was postponed four times this year before it was held on Dec. 6. The court delivered an oral verdict, dropping all charges and calling for the bail money to be returned to the eight Christians. The written verdict is expected within a month.
Pastor Tanka Subedi, founding member and chair of Dharmik Chautari Nepal and Religious Liberty Forum Nepal (RLF) said in the news release, “We are very happy with the court’s decision. This has raised our trust in justice and democracy in Nepal.”
Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said in the news release, “We welcome this acquittal of the eight Christians in Charikot. However, we join our voices with civil society in Nepal in urging the government of Nepal to amend Section 26 of the new constitution and ensure that it – along with the draft penal code -guarantees full freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression.”
He added, “The right to freedom of religion or belief is of particular importance in Nepal, as the country recently made the transition from a Hindu monarchy to a secular democratic republic.”
Christian Solidarity Worldwide works for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.
For further information visit www.csw.org.uk.
Photo captions: 1) Three of the eight Christians holding the comic book. (via Global Christian News). 2) Jeremy and Elma Reynalds.
About the writer: Jeremy Reynalds, who was born in Bournemouth, UK, is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, a freelance writer and also the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico’s largest emergency homeless shelter, www.joyjunction.org. He has a master’s degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. One of his more recent books is “From Destitute to Ph.D.” Additional details on the book are available at www.myhomelessjourney.com. His latest book is “Two Hearts One Vision.” It is available at www.twoheartsonevisionthebook.com. Reynalds lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with his wife, Elma. For more information, please contact Jeremy Reynalds at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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