Nepalese Priest, Pastor Keshab To Be Jailed For Praying After Supreme Court Denies An Appeal

Nepalese Priest, Pastor Keshab To Be Jailed For Praying After Supreme Court Denies An Appeal

Nepalese Priest, Pastor Keshab To Be Jailed For Praying After Supreme Court Denies An Appeal

Nepalese Priest, Pastor Keshab To Be Jailed For Praying After Supreme Court Denies An Appeal
Nepalese Priest, Pastor Keshab To Be Jailed For Praying After Supreme Court Denies An Appeal

After the Supreme Court of Nepal upheld the priest’s previous conviction, Pastor Keshab Raj Acharya faces a year in prison for his religious activities. This represents a significant setback for religious freedom in Nepal, as the priest is currently awaiting a trial response to his appeal to reduce the sentence to a fine.

“Pastor Keshab must now face his prison sentence unless the court accepts his appeal to have the prison sentence converted to a fine,” legal group ADF International, whose allied lawyers are supporting the priest’s legal defense, said in statement.

In a statement, Rev Keshab expressed his distress but remained hopeful, calling for international intervention to protect religious freedom in Nepal, formerly the only Hindu kingdom in the world.

While facing more prison is distressing, I find comfort in God, believing that anything is possible through Him, he said.

Keshab, 35, the pastor of Pokhara, Nepal’s Bountiful Harvest Church, expressed gratitude to his followers for their well-wishes and encouragement for him and his family.

Pastor Keshab was accused of “sending religious feelings” and “proselytizing” when he was detained in March 2020 for inviting a guy to his home for prayer. This marked the beginning of the case against him. Under Nepal’s criminal statute, which forbids religious conversion and propagation and carries fines and jail time as penalties, the Dolpa Prosecutor’s office filed accusations.

Pastor Keshab was fined 20,000 Nepalese rupees (about US$150) and given a two-year prison sentence in November 2021 for the claimed offenses. The Jumla Supreme Court later lowered this sentence to one year. Pastor Keshab had no other options except to try to get his prison sentence reduced to a fine after the Supreme Court rejected his appeal of the Court of Appeal’s ruling.

Tehmina Arora, ADF International’s director of advocacy in Asia, denounced the Supreme Court’s ruling, pointing out how fundamental human rights were violated and how a chance to establish a precedent favorably for religious freedom was lost.

The Supreme Court’s decision came as a shock, especially since there were no witnesses to corroborate the charge of proselytism.

Pastor Keshab’s wife, Junu Acharya, expressed shock at the decision and highlighted her husband’s innocence, saying he didn’t coerce anyone to convert to a different religion. She thinks that the government’s policies are meant to stop Nepal’s Christian community from evangelizing.

Following a YouTube video in which he provided spiritual advice against COVID-19 in 2020, Pastor Keshab’s ordeal got underway. His words were misrepresented, which resulted in numerous prosecutions and arrests. He was convicted despite the absence of strong evidence and the testimony of a witness that suggested he was innocent.

Both the US State Department’s 2020 report on international religious freedom and the Round Table on International Religious Freedom brought attention to Pastor Keshab’s situation, deeming his arrest to be discriminatory and arbitrary.

The president of Voice for Justice, Joseph Jansen, denounced the misuse of Nepal’s anti-conversion legislation, contending that Pastor Keshab was merely using his freedom of religion without being forced to do so.

Since 2018, the persecution of Nepal’s Christian population has worsened, with the prosecution of conversions being denounced for infringing upon fundamental freedoms of religion or belief.

 

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