Religious tolerance

- David Kainee, Kathmandu

Jul 29, 2015-When members of the Constituent Assembly (CA) came seeking our suggestions for the draft constitution, I was more than happy to participate in the public hearing. Along with my friends, I participated in the public hearing with enthusiasm. After an honourable member of the CA spoke about the different provisions and contents of the constitution, the floor was opened to the audience to give suggestions for possible inclusion in the final draft of the constitution. When I got a chance to speak, I spoke for secularism and religious freedom, sensing the spirit of religious extremism from some political leaders at the public hearing. 

The first seating of the dissolved parliament which was reinstated by the then king Gyanendra after a popular uprising against his autocratic rule declared Nepal a secular country, giving equal rights to all the religions to flourish. The Interim Constitution of Nepal upheld that provision. But recently, religion is being used as a tool to revive politics for discredited and outdated leaders. When the sitting prime minister, who took the oath of office under the secular constitution, publicly stated that he was unaware how the term secularism had been incorporated in the Interim Constitution, it further fuelled the debate on the principle of keeping religion and politics separate. 

The current debate over secularism is taking place partly due to the resurgence of some political leaders who are exploiting the religious sentiments of the people to purge their tainted images in a bid to bounce back into politics. These leaders are inciting hatred against religious minorities which is polluting the environment of religious tolerance for which Nepal is known all over the world. The concept of secularism holds that the government or other entities should exist separately from religion and religious beliefs. But it is sad to say that secularism has been wrongly interpreted in Nepal. If the constitution of Nepal enshrines secularism, it doesn’t mean that every Hindu will be converted into Christians or Muslims — it is only a movement towards the separation of religion and government. The country doesn’t believe in religion but the people, therefore, the country has no religion to be attached with. 

Secularism won’t weaken nationalism, but it will bring everybody together further cementing the bond between the different communities. When a majority of the democratic countries in the world have incorporated secularism in their constitutions providing equal opportunities to all the religions to flourish, I think Nepal won’t take a step backwards. For peace and prosperity, we need to defeat the forces of religious extremism in the country, otherwise Nepal is sure to take the path of communal politics like in the Gulf and Middle Eastern countries where hundreds of people are being killed in religious violence every day. Let’s close the chapter of giving a political colour to religion which is polarising Nepali society, instead plant the seed of tolerance and unity which is my fervent prayer for our country Nepal.

Published: 30-07-2015 08:26

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