The new Constitution began to be developed in 2007 when an interim constitution was put into place. The target time for completion was 2010 and after missing that deadline and a number of further deadlines it seemed as if it may never happen. Five years further on and it would seem that a signing is almost imminent and will be a historic event in a country that has been struggling to find a new identity that represents the people of Nepal. The new Constitution will divide Nepal into 6 federated states or provinces which will each have a number of districts covering the mountains, the hills and the Terai plains. Inevitably there are still areas of disagreement and this has led to some rioting in the Mid-West of Nepal where two people have been killed as a consequence. A large number of security forces have been deployed and a curfew has been imposed at present. One significant area of disagreement involves whether the country will be formally recognized as “secular”, “Hindu”, or as a place where “religious freedom” is allowed. Clearly this will have an important impact on people’s lives and could move the country forward or backwards in this area. At the current time article 31 of the Constitution explicitly criminalises any “act to convert a person from one religion to another” and there is much pressure from the Hindu nationalists to return Nepal to being an expressly Hindu country. However, Article 18 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Nepal is a signatory, strongly supports religious freedom and is a challenge to the nationalist ideology.
Please pray for this difficult time in Nepal, in particular that:
- There will not be further bloodshed and that calm will be maintained.
- People will accept the new Constitution and seek to make it work positively for the country.
- The new Constitution will support religious freedom in line with Article 18 of the UN Declaration.
- The church leaders in Nepal would be given wisdom for all that lies ahead.
- There would be protection for all Nepali men and women and children as they go about their daily lives.
- INF staff in the Mid-West will be safe if there is difficulty on the streets there.
The NLT UK Team