Despite growing scientific advancement and modernity, religion has heavily influenced people’s minds and lives. Both good and bad practices are evident in the Nepali society, too, in the name of religion. However, in recent days, the act of proselytisation has stirred a controversy.
Few days ago, a well-known pastor named Keshavraj Acharya was sentenced for two years in jail along with a fine of Rs. 20,000. His offence was that he had forced a woman from Tripurasundari Municipality of Dolpa district to convert her religion. The incident was a major violation of Article 26 of the Constitution of Nepal that guarantees the right to freedom of religion as a fundamental right, and punishes those involved in forcefully converting people’s religions.
There are many instances where the poor and the marginalised group of people have converted their religion. For example, individuals from the Dalit communities have converted their religion to be treated more equally and to live a happy and fulfilling life in the society. The message of everyone being equal in the eyes of God is highlighted much to attract the attention of those who have suffered from social discriminations. Likewise, another captivating factor is the financial support made available to the individual and his or her family. Attracted by the improved living conditions in the future, they readily agree to this.
Besides, for many people, religion has posed as a means to curing human diseases. This could be either a superstitious belief or a true thing. Researches have shown that human’s involvement in religion and spirituality can ensure better health outcomes. So, people after failing to find their conditions improved in the existing religion convert with the faith that their illnesses will go away instantly.
The psychological impact that religion can have on people is huge and many seem to be taking advantage of this. They are made to believe that through proselytism, numerous opportunities and benefits will open up easily. In a way, it promotes one religion to be superior over the other in the eyes of people.
Religious conversion made on the free will of an individual is not an issue. However, if manipulation, instillation of fears and superstitions are disguised behind the so-called free will, this can never be called a right deed. Nepal is known for religious tolerance and harmony. Yet, these kinds of activities can cause huge turbulence to the society. It not only increases animosity between people from different religious backgrounds but at the same time puts a stain on a particular religion’s image.
Religion should be a guiding path for people to make correct decisions and not a burden. No religion is greater than the other and each of them has their unique features. Yet, thanks to different preachers and religious leaders, this kind of perception is not being instilled in people. Misunderstanding and misinterpretation can give rise to negativity. The police as well as other law enforcement authorities should remain vigilant to deal with such activities. Public should also be aware of what they are getting into as long as matters of religion are concerned.