Christians account for only around 1.5% of Nepal’s majority-Hindu population. (Photo: Flickr / Damien KR / CC)

Four Christian women were arrested earlier this week in Nepal on suspicion of attempting to convert people to Christianity by force, Asia News reports.

The women – two of whom are Japanese – were accused by residents of proselytising door-to-door. They were followed and filmed, and the footage was passed on to police, who made the arrests.

Religious conversions and the “hurting of religious feelings” are criminal offences in Nepal.

Sajan K. George, the president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, told Asia News that, “While [the] Constitution defines Nepal as a secular and democratic republic, its definition of ‘secular’ seems to protect Hinduism.

“There have been so many incidents against Christians in Nepal, where foreigners have been deported on charges of forced conversions. It seems that the administration is anxious to detain [Christians] and to stop the Christian faith.”

Christians account for only around 1.5% of the population.

The arrests took place on 4 November in the Butawal area near the capital Kathmandu. Those arrested were: Yasura Owa, 49, and Makihikula, 44, both Japanese; and Pushpa Ghimire, 25, and Tirthamaya Ghale, 35, both Nepalese.

They were accused of targeting Dalits (considered “untouchable” in the Indian caste system) and nomads. Many Dalits have converted to Christianity, perhaps steered by the message that all are valued equally by God.

The World Evangelical Alliance recently denounced Nepal’s restrictions on religious freedom at the UN Human Rights Council, the country’s new criminal code and constitution put “disproportionate restrictions on the freedom of religion or belief” and “violate the right of religious communities to share the tenets of their belief”.