International Christian Concern (ICC) reports that four Nepali Christians, Lali Pun, Bimkali Budha, Ruplal Pariyar and his wife Ganga, were finally released from prison when their sentences for “violence and witchcraft” after praying for a mentally ill woman were reversed.
This news comes after ICC’s advocacy team led a petition to the Nepali government demanding their release earlier this year.
These four Nepali Christians were originally convicted in December of last year in the District Court in Salyan after the father-in-law of a mentally ill woman accused them of abuse and witchcraft against her.
The father-in-law had brought the woman to a local church for prayer in the hopes that their efforts might heal her. The mentally ill woman, Seti Pariyar, left the prayer service and was later found in a forest harming herself and yelling before being taken home.
After reading a media report of the incident, a complaint was made by Bhisma Pariyar. This led to the hearing and following conviction in District Court, despite the mentally ill woman and her husband testifying that the four did not act in a forceful or abusive manner. The woman also testified that she was healed because of their prayers.
This wrongful imprisonment was further indication of Nepal’s continued backslide on issues of religious freedom. Earlier this year, the Nepali parliament passed a new law criminalizing conversions to non-Hindu religions. The parliament passed the law despite Article 26 (3) of Nepal’s 2015 constitution already restricting religious conversion and expression.
Nate Lance, ICC’s Advocacy Manager, said of these Christians’ release, “International Christian Concern is so pleased that this situation has reached its rightful resolution. However, the imprisonment of these Christians should have never taken place as the facts of their innocence were clear. This is a step in the right direction for religious freedom in Nepal, but there is still much work to be done. No one should fear imprisonment for the free expression and practice of their religion.”