British Envoy in Nepal Sparks Storm Of Conversion Controversy; Ritu Raj Subedi
Posted on July 5th, 2015

Courtesy: The Rising Nepal

British ambassador to Nepal Andrew Sparkes has sparked a storm of controversies. In his open letter to the Constituent Assembly members, he egged them on for ensuring the right to conversion in the new statute. His comment came at a time when a considerable size of Nepali population is smouldering against the decision to turn the Hindu nation into a secular state in 2006 and when the Himalayan nation has been struggling to have a new constitution. The first CA collapsed without delivering the statute and the second one is seemingly heading for the similar fate. The major parties are sharply divided and are unable to forge consensus on the thorny issues of the statute. Anybody can experience Nepal’s precarious political dilemma. And at this sensitive phase of transition, British envoy just threw a stone into the troubled waters only to raise the eyebrows of many.

Controversial Remark

Although his embassy regretted his controversial remark, it riled the masses that have kept mum until recently over the growing interventionist acts of the foreign players on the Nepalese soil. When Nepal was declared a secular state, a section of people had registered their silent opposition to the move. They had a plausible argument- secularism was introduced without due and democratic procedure and without consulting over 80 per cent Hindu population of the country. That Nepal was made secular state at the behest of the foreign elements has been their central line of logic, and the major parties have failed to furnish their credible answers to them. They have been demanding a referendum to settle the dispute. At a time when the parties could not justify that their decision to usher Nepal into secular state was transparent and based on popular mandate, Sparkes’ statement only gave credence to a polemic that Nepal’s secular and federal journey was taking place under a diabolic design of the foreign power centres.

Since Nepal became secular, hundreds of thousands of ‘innocent people’ reportedly converted to the Christian followers through ‘monetary inducements.’ That Nepal has become a fertile ground for the conversion of sweeping scale has been justified by none other than a Christian organisation.  According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, Nepal is the fastest Christianity growing country in the world. In its report published in 2013, the Centre said that Nepal topped the list of 20 countries that have the highest percentage of Christianity Average Annual Growth Rate (AAGR).  Nepal registered 10.93 per cent Christian AAGR followed by China, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The Centre predicts that the Christian population in Nepal will double within six and a half years. In 1970, the number of Christian followers here stood at 0.1 per cent and it will reach 3.8 per cent in 2020, it states. It is estimated that the Christian followers are around 2 per cent. It is interesting to note that net Christian conversion rate was 8.74 per cent against 2.19 per cent population growth rate in Nepal. It said that the primary growth factor in Asia is massive conversion. China, Nepal, Cambodia and Mongolia have high conversation rates among their indigenous people.  The majority of becoming Christians comes from non-religious, Buddhist and Hindu backgrounds,” the Centre said.

Under his ‘Look East Policy,’ the Pope of Vatican had reportedly vowed to bring 100 million people in Asia to the fold of Christianity by 2025. Is Sparkes’s tendentious plea for inserting the right to conversion provision in the new statute the part of Pope’s pledge? This mission cannot be met just placing a Bible or Christian literature in the hand of its prospective followers. It is not that the people must be bribed to make them tergiversate. The number of people, who change their faith voluntarily or after gaining enlightenment from other religions, may not be higher.  Until certain enticements and inducements are offered to the people, a large scale of conversion is not possible. As the above report disclosed, the rate of conversion is high among the indigenous people. There cannot be any suitable constituency than the ethnic, Dalit and impoverished hinterland for the religious hawks to prey on. There has long been perceived doubt that some Western nations are funding for the conversions in a clandestine manner and the report has corroborate this misgiving. The critics of conversion have argued that the ethnic movement and the conversion drive in Nepal have become two facets of the same coin because the funding for the two campaigns comes from the same sources. It is claimed that the Nepal Transition to Peace Fund that is backed by some Nordic and Western European nations are promoting ethnic/indigenous cause and Christianity in Nepal simultaneously.

Secularism simply means that the state detaches itself from any religious affairs. It is beyond doubt that religious freedom is a prerequisite for a healthy democratic and multicultural society. But, it is a gross mistake to use secularism as a license for conversion. Here is a sheer irony – many of the western nations are not secular but their diplomats here lecture us to be secular to the extent that the mission of the Vatican can be easily achieved. Envoy Sparkes and his country, the UK, is a glaring example. The UK that has 59 per cent of Christian population does not have a written constitution but its political tradition strongly suggests that it is not a secular nation. The Queen is the head of the Church of England. She, as per the recommendation of the Prime Minister, appoints 15 representatives of the Church of England to the House of Lords.

Mind Your Own Business

There is another classic example to show how anti-secular the UK is. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was Catholic but when he became the Prime Minister, he converted himself to Protestant because he did not want to come into conflict with the Protestant Queen. He was a Protestant throughout his PM tenure. One month before he was to leave office, he visited the Pope in Rome, narrated his story and sought suggestion from him, I want to be Catholic again. Could I be?” Yes, you can adopt your previous faith,” the master of the Vatican had given the nod. Tony became Catholic again. This religious saga of Britain’s once famed Prime Minister speaks volumes that every nation has its own cultural value and system that guides the politics and entire society. When the Prime Minister of his own nation had to go through the rigmarole of religion to serve his office in the Downing Street, How did envoy Sparkes gather moral authority to remind us about the UN Charter on religious right and preach us  to do this or that in the new constitution? It would be wise if our foreign diplomats minded their own business and let our transitional politics take its own course.

Courtesy: The Rising Nepal

see also

British Ambassador to Nepal accused of supporting Christian missionaries

The British Ambassador to Nepal has been accused of supporting the work of Christian missionaries in the majority-Hindu nation.

Andrew Sparkes, who became the ambassador in Kathmandu in April 2013, wrote an article in the Republica newspaper to mark International Human Rights Day on 10 December.

“We encourage you to ensure that the right to change religion is protected and that the right to hold opinions and to express them freely will remain strong,” he wrote.

It was framed as an open letter addressed to members of Constituent Assembly in Nepal, the body currently responsible for redrafting Nepal’s constitution.

His remarks, which were interpreted by Hindu conservatives as part of a conspiracy to convert Nepalis to Christianity, led a number of Hindu groups to call for the British government to remove Sparkes from his post, EKantipur news website reports.

The British Embassy in Kathmandu responded with a statement last week to clarify Sparkes’ comments. “Some have misunderstood the letter’s reference to protecting an individual’s right to change religion. This was simply a reference to a fundamental individual right, set out in Article 18 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was not a reference to supporting ‘forced’ conversion or proselytising.

“Nor was the Embassy or its officials preaching or imposing any religious point of view on Nepal’s democratically elected representatives and Nepal’s citizens. Contrary to some claims, the Embassy does not hold any position on secularism – that is a matter for Nepal’s people and their elected representatives to decide,” the statement said.

Christians make up just under three per cent of Nepal’s population, although there has been significant growth among the Christian community in recent years. Critics in Nepal say this growth is owed to conversions with ‘monetary inducements’, according to the national newspaper The Rising Nepal.

Nepal was a Hindu kingdom until the end of the civil war in 2006, when it became a secular state. Hindus constitute about 80 per cent of the population, and some are calling for it to return to being a Hindu nation.


One Response to “British Envoy in Nepal Sparks Storm Of Conversion Controversy; Ritu Raj Subedi”

  1. Ratanapala Says:

    Once converted to Christianity the converted become easy pawns in the hands of the Western Christian nations to subvert one’s mother country. They become traitors to their motherland and also to their previous religion. Their children go viral against their parents previous religion. What the imperial powers are doing is seeding the country for future subversion. Nepal, India, Sri Lanka are among many other countries at the receiving end of this Christian menace.

    Today Sri Lanka is run by a Christian government – the UNP. The church is sparing no time to make while the Christian Sun is shining. Rosy Senanayake the Born Again Christian is in charge of the most vulnerable sector in Sri Lanka – Children’s Affairs. John Amaratunga is in charge of security. Ravi Karunanayagam is in charge of Finance and the list goes on. Evangelist Eran Wickramasinghe is waiting in the wings.

    If by any chance United Christian Party ( UNP) comes to power – Siri Lakata Jesu Phitai.

    These efforts have nothing to do with Christianity. Christianity is only one tool that used to enrich the church in the first place and create Western Christian hegemony second.

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