Four Christians have been found guilty of "violence" and "witchcraft" by a Nepali court and sentenced to five years in prison because their prayers helped heal a severely mentally ill woman.
According to World Watch Monitor, in June, 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 and sentenced to five years in prison.
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.
Hinduism reigns as the primary religion - out of Nepal's population of 28 million, Christians make up less than 1.5 percent. In 2007, the former Hindu kingdom adopted a new constitution that declared the country a secular state, angering Hindu nationalist groups. Last September, Hindu extremists warned all foreign Christian missionaries to leave the country, accusing them of "corrupting" the nation.
Thus, Dyann Romeijn of Vision Beyond Borders told Mission Network News that much of the animosity towards Christians has to do with a growing Hindu-nationalist sentiment, influenced by India.
"I think that's what they're trying to do is silence that Christian voice. [If] people can't hear, then they have no opportunity to know the truth," she said. "I think overall, it comes down to the same thing we see around the world, is that it's a spiritual persecution, that a lot of times they're not as worried about cultural differences when they come in different ways, but when it comes in with the truth of the Gospel, I just think we see everything rise up against that."
However, Nepal 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.
"There is a lot of growth in Christianity taking place in these countries and I do believe we'll see an uptick in those numbers. Sometimes it's difficult for people to claim to be Christians in countries like this in regular reporting because it puts them at greater risk," said Romeijn.