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Christian charity urges caution over Nepal constitution change

by Aaron James

The Nepalese government recently confirmed it would be changing the word, after it conducted a survey of its people and found most preferred the words "Hindu" or "religious freedom" to define the state instead.

80% of Nepalese people are Hindu.

The term 'secularism' is disliked by many Nepalese, partially because of its anti-religious sentiments, but also because of its association with Maoist Communism, which officially changed the country from a Hindu kingdom to a secular republic in 2008.

The Unified Communist Party of Nepal (UCPN) has since changed its stance on the word however, advocating a change along with other political parties following the survey.

According to The Times of India newspaper, UCPN leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal told reporters: "We found during the feedback collection process that the people were deeply displeased and hurt with the usage of the term 'secularism', therefore, when the new constitution is promulgated, the term will be replaced by another suitable term."

Christian Solidarity Worldwide has highlighted that a change in constitution to make Nepal solely a Hindu state could pave the way for more persecution against Christians and other minorities in the country, and said it advocated a new wording which enshrines religious freedom.

Kiri Kankhwende, from the charity, told Premier: "CSW advocates a Nepali State that guarantees the civil rights of all Nepali citizens, including guaranteeing freedom of religion or belief for all, as outlined in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Nepal has ratified.

"The State must remain neutral on religious matters, ensuring no religion or belief receives preferential treatment, while also upholding rule of law. In addition, the rights of all citizens to discuss and share their beliefs and opinions with others who may not hold the same beliefs, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the ICCPR, must also be upheld.

"With reference to the new constitution of Nepal, if the word "secular" is omitted from the constitution, then there needs to be another way of expressing the state's "neutrality" towards all religions."

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