Four Christians have been found guilty of "violence" and "witchcraft" by a Nepali court and sentenced to prison after their prayers led to the miraculous healing of a severely mentally ill woman.
According to World Watch Monitor, the initial incident took place in June, when Seti Pariyar, a mentally ill woman, was sent by her father-in-law, who used to be a Christian, to a local church for healing prayer. According to witnesses, Pariyar left the church before the prayer service was over and was later found shouting and self-harming in a nearby forest, and taken back to her home.
More than a month later, a local businessman gave an account of the incident to the local media and, on the basis of that media report, a Bhisma Pariyar filed a complaint against the five who were then arrested. The Christians were then arrested by police and questioned about trying to convert Pariyar.
Meanwhile, Pariyar, and her husband testified at the district court to say the five did not act forcefully or inhumanely towards her; in fact, she testified that the prayers of the Christians had completely healed her of her illness.
Despite local lawyers and other Christian leaders' best efforts, the five Christians were imprisoned for witchcraft, forceful imprisonment and violence towards the woman. Earlier this month, four of the Christians were sentenced to five years in prison, while the fifth prison was found not guilty and released after the hearing.
The incident comes one year after Nepal introduced a new Constitution which outlaws "any act to convert another person from one religion to another or any act or behavior to undermine or jeopardize the religion of another," with violations punishable by prison and/or fines.
WWM notes that since then, the freedom of Nepal's Christians is increasingly under threat. According to persecution watchdog Open Doors USA, the country shows "increasing signs of becoming a more Hindu nationalistic nation" opposed to the growth and influence of Christianity - in fact, the Nepal Cabinet announced on Thursday that there will be no public holiday on Christmas Day.
Hinduism reigns as the primary religion - out of Nepal's population of 28 million, Christians make up less than 1.5 percent. However, the country has one of the fastest-growing Christian populations in the world, tripling to more than 300,000 in the past 10 years, according to the World Christian Database, which tracks global trends in Christianity.