A Christian couple have been deported from Nepal after they were accused of proselytism, a criminal offence in the country, reports national newspaper The Himalayan Times.
De Vera Richard, from the Philippines, and his Indonesian wife Rita Gonga had been staying in Nepal on business visas and were running a restaurant, but were also reportedly pastors of a church in Lalitpur, a city just south of the capital Kathmandu, historically known as Patan.
Following a complaint lodged with the Ministry of Home Affairs, an investigation was launched which found that the couple were working as pastors at Every Nation Church in Kumaripati, a residential area in Lalitpur, and “were converting Hindus into Christians”, according to the Times.
Proselytism is a crime in Nepal and carries a punishment of up to five years in prison and a fine of 50,000 Rupees (US$450).
The investigation by the Department of Immigration also said the couple’s work as pastors violated the terms of their one-year business visas, which have now been annulled.
‘Christianity pushing Nepal into conflict’
In April Nepal announced it would draft new laws and amend existing legal provisions to prevent religious conversions.
Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa said that, “through Christianity”, attempts were being made to “push the country into conflict”.
“A new strategy should be devised to consolidate national unity,” he added.
In October last year, Nepali president Bidhya Devi Bhandari signed into law a bill criminalising religious conversion and the “hurting of religious sentiment”.
At that time, two parliamentarians warned that religious freedom in the country was “teetering on the edge”.