A pastor in Nepal will potentially face jail time for praying after his country’s Supreme Court rejected his appeal.
Pastor Keshab Raj Acharya was sentenced to one year in prison over his religious activity and must now face that sentence unless the high court accepts his appeal to have the penalty converted into a fine.
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Despite Acharya’s plight — which is being seen as a step backward for religious liberty in Nepal — the preacher said he remains steadfast in his faith.
“While facing more jail time is distressing, I find solace in God, believing that anything is possible through Him,” Acharya said in a statement released by ADF International.
He also urged other countries to place pressure on Nepal to secure his release and defend basic human rights to religious freedom and expression.
“I urge the international community to engage with the Nepali government to safeguard religious freedom in order to pave the way for true religious freedom for everyone in Nepal,” Acharya continued. “I thank everyone for their continued support and prayers for me and my family.”
The pastor previously said the nearly three months he spent in jail before his sentencing was “very difficult” and that he often thought about his young kids and wife and would “cry out to the Lord in prayer.”
As CBN News previously reported, problems began for the pastor in March 2020, when a man purportedly called him to ask for prayer for his wife. The preacher invited the man to his home to perform the invocation, but cops reportedly arrived instead.
“Later, four police officers arrested him,” ADF International said in a statement. “He was released on 8 April 2020, only to be re-arrested a day later on charges of ‘outraging religious feelings’ and ‘proselytizing’ for distributing religious leaflets.”
There were also reports of a video uploaded to YouTube showing Acharya stating COVID-19 could be healed through prayer, though he denied uploading the clip.
Acharya was charged under Nepal’s penal code, which cracks down on sharing faith or attempts to convert others to Christianity. An anti-conversion law was put into place in 2018.
In 2021, he was sentenced to two years of prison and fined 20,000 Nepali rupees, with a subsequent court reducing the punishment to one year. Tragically, he was convicted based on one person’s claims, as corroboration was reportedly not given by others.
After Acharya was freed on bail, the Supreme Court declined to take up the case and essentially upheld the previous conviction. Now, Acharya hopes the prison sentence can be converted into a fine.
As the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) states, Nepal’s 2007 constitution officially delineated the nation as a secular state, ending the centuries of Hindu monarchy rule. This brought some protections for religious minorities while also sparking some new struggles.
Hinduism is still favored, with the USCIRF noting that “Nepal’s National Penal (Code) Act criminalizes proselytism, blasphemy, and cow slaughter, disproportionally impacting the country’s Buddhist, Christian, and Muslim populations.” In particular, it is illegal to convert someone from one faith to another.
Nepal was ranked #48 on Open Doors’ World Watch List in 2022 and has since dropped out of the top 50 nations where Christian persecution is at its worst. In a 2023 explanation, Open Doors said its removal was due to a rise in persecution in other nations and not because “persecution has decreased there.”
Continue to pray for Acharya as he faces his ongoing legal battle.
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