Church in Chains, 04 August 2022 (excerpts)
On 13 July, Jumla High Court sentenced Pastor Keshav Raj Acharya of Pokhara city’s Abundant Harvest Church to one year in prison and a fine for proselytising.
The pastor was first detained in March 2020, released on bail the following month, but re-arrested the same day and charged with “outraging religious feelings” and “attempting to convert” under Nepal’s anti-conversion laws.
He was bailed in May 2020 but arrested a third time and released on bail in June of that year. In November 2021, he was found guilty of proselytising (the first person convicted for proselytising under the anti-conversion laws of August 2018) and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and a fine. He was imprisoned until bail was granted in December.
In June 2022, Pokhara District Court in Kaski dropped all charges against Pastor Keshav, meaning that the High Court’s decision last month to sentence him to one year in prison came as a shock to his family.
Joseph Jansen of Voice for Justice, said: “It is illegal and unethical to compel someone to change their faith by threat or coercion; however, Pastor Keshav Acharya did not resort to coercion to convert anyone to Christianity. He only exercised his right to freedom of religion and did not commit any offence. It is regrettable that Nepal’s anti-conversion laws are so worded and enforced that they may be applied as anti-blasphemy measures.”
Pastor Keshav’s lawyer is applying for bail and is appealing the verdict at the Supreme Court, citing Nepal’s constitution and international law commitments.