By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – An evangelical pastor in Nepal received a two-year prison sentence for evangelism activities that violated the former Hindu kingdom’s anti-conversion laws, trial observers said Thursday.
Pastor Keshav Raj Acharya of Abundant Harvest Church was fined 20,000 Nepalese rupees ($166) by a court in Nepal’s Dolpa district in the western Pokhara region Worthy News learned.
The November 30 sentence came about a week after it found him guilty of “proselytization,” the word used for evangelism here, in a case that sparked international concern.
He was first detained on March 23 in Nepal’s Kaski district after police found footage on the video-sharing YouTube service, which quickly spread across social media.
In the video, the pastor reportedly said that the coronavirus variant COVID-19 could be healed through prayer, according to Christians familiar with the material.
“Hey, corona — you go and die. May all your deeds be destroyed by the power of the Lord Jesus. I rebuke you, corona, in the name of Lord Jesus Christ,” he said according to transcripts. “By the power or the ruler of this Creation, I rebuke you … By the power in the name of Lord Jesus Christ, corona, go away and die,” he reportedly added in the video.
Pastor Acharya reportedly denied uploading the footage on the internet and was released on bail about a month later. However, he was soon rearrested “without a warrant” and jailed, Christians said.
Acharya was charged and eventually sentenced under Nepal’s anti-conversion law for allegedly “proselytizing” and distributing Christian tracts in Dolpa district, trial watchers confirmed.
However, Nepal’s Supreme Court was due to re-assess the case amid claims from Pastor
Acharya’s lawyer that “the proper legal process was not followed,” well-informed sources said. It was not immediately clear when the Supreme Court would convene to discuss the case.
Christians urged for prayers that the case sentence would be overturned and that the pastor would continue his work of “hope and salvation that’s available through faith in Christ.”
About 81 percent of Nepal’s 30 million people are Hindu, Buddhists account for 9 percent, Muslims 4.4 percent, and Christians 1.4 percent, according to the 2011 census.
Christian groups say up to 1.5 million Christians in Nepal are one of the fastest-growing Christian communities in the world.
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