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Cristiani del Nepal in preghiera

Two religious sisters detained in Nepal for "illegal conversions"

Two South Korean Missionaries arrested in Nepal in September are still in prison on charges of illegal conversion activities which the local Church says are unfounded.

Vatican News staff writer

Two Catholic nuns from South Korea have been detained in Nepal for over six weeks on charges of converting Hindus by coercion and allurement. Sister Gemma Lucia Kim and Sister Martha Park Byongsuk of the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres Congregation were arrested on September 14 following an anonymous complaint. They are presently detained in a prison in Kathmandu after they were denied bail.

The two nuns run “Happy Home”, a center that provides accommodation, food, education, medical services and skills training to about 120 slum children in Pokhara, about 200 kilometers from Kathmandu. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they distributed food rations to vulnerable people, but some locals accused them of alluring them to become Catholics by giving low-quality food. 

Unjust and baseless allegations 

The Apostolic Vicar of Nepal, Bishop Paul Simick, has told papal foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that the Nepalese Catholic community was shocked at the news they had been denied bail and said that the allegations “are utterly baseless and unjust”. “We, as Catholics, do not indulge in forceful conversion and the Korean sisters are known for doing exclusively social work”, he added, noting that “the sisters have been dedicating themselves totally to the poor for many years”

Speaking about their present state of mind, the Apostolic Vicar said they are “very calm and serene”. However, he is worried about their health as they are both elderly. “The Catholic community views this incident as an attack on minority communities, and an attempt to criminalize particularly Christian missionary activities such as social services, providing education, and health care, which could be construed as an allurement for conversion”, Bishop Simick further pointed out.

Growing hostility against Christians in Nepal

In recent years Christian Churches, in general, have been experiencing growing hostility and intolerance in the Himalayan Hindu-majority nation, where Christians account for 1.4 percent of the population. According to ACN Religious Freedom Report 2021, legal and social pressures on the Christian minority have further increased since the adoption of the new Constitution in 2015 and of the new Penal Code outlawing proselytism. Moreover, in recent times, a number of foreign priests and religious sisters were denied visas and had to leave the country.

28 October 2021, 15:26