Kathmandu, December 23-
As the chief guest of the Valley-wide United Christmas Programme last Wednesday, December 20 at the Nepal Academy, Sudan Kirati – the Minister for Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation- made quite some fiery speech, encouraging the Christian community to be bold, organize such programmes out in the open air, and walk with their heads held high as proud Nepalis.
Among some theologically outrageous statements like likening Jesus Christ with the Maoist leader and Prime Minister Prachanda as a rebel and a social reformer, minister Kirati made a series of statements which were soon taken out of context and twisted to mean he said that anyone who does not accept Christianity is one who is a traitor and needs to be punished, etc.
Nepal Sanatan Dharma Sanskriti Sangathan, RPP, and some other monarchists staged a protest, demanding the resignation of minister Kirati. The protesters carried placards reading “Sack irresponsible minister, resign Sudan Kirati, stop non-religious appointments in the religious sector.”
A controversy surrounds the appointment of Lakshmi Pun as the Executive Director of Pashupati Area Development Trust. The decision was made during a meeting of the Pashupati Area Development Governing Council, chaired by Minister Sudan Kiranti, further fueling the dissatisfaction among protesters.
The controversy centers around Minister Kirati’s assertion that individuals who do not believe in Christianity are “anti-constitutional” and, shockingly, should be considered “traitors” subject to imprisonment. These comments, captured in a video clip from a Christian event, have sparked widespread debate and calls for the minister’s resignation.
Let us first look into the actual speech, then make some comments and analysis.
What were Minister Kirati’s exact statements during the event?
Minister Kirati began his speech by acknowledging Nepal’s status as a multi-religious, multicultural, and multilingual nation, as stipulated in the country’s constitution. Despite Nepal’s democratic structure, he reassured the audience, which included Christians, that they are an integral part of the diverse fabric of the nation.
Claiming to be a guardian of Nepal’s metaphorical flower garden representing diversity, Kirati emphasized the importance of a secular system that upholds religious freedom. He criticized officials who favor one religion over another and presented census data to highlight the variety of religions in Nepal, underscoring their equal standing in the eyes of the state.
Addressing the Valley-wide Joint Comprehensive Christmas Festival 2080 held in Kathmandu on Wednesday, Minister Kirati said that Nepal is a multi-religious country, and by using the rights granted by the constitution, Christians are also followers of the religion.
In his speech on Wednesday, he stated that the country is a common flower garden of all religions, and all religions have equal rights. “Christians are also a kind of flower among the colorful flowers blooming in this common garden,” he said, “Without you, there is no beauty in the flower garden.” He cited the 2078 census, mentioning that there are statistics showing 10 religions in Nepal, and all these religions are equal in the eyes of the state.
“All religious people have settled in Nepal by using the rights granted by the constitution,” he said, “To say that we do not accept the existence of Christians is to say that we do not follow the constitution.” Similarly, he stated that one who does not adhere to the principles of the constitution is a traitor, and such traitors should be handcuffed and sent to jail.
This expression has been criticized as labeling those who do not believe in Christianity as traitors. From Kamal Thapa, who has been involved in religious politics, to Rabi Lamichhane, who has expressed his intention to start a new kind of politics, there are critics who view Kirati’s statement in this light.
“Culture Minister Sudan Kirati’s latest expression, disturbing social harmony and tolerance, provocative, irresponsible, contrary to official dignity, and extremely regrettable,” Lamichhane wrote on social media, “A person who gives such an irresponsible expression and spreads communal hatred is as responsible as the Minister of Culture. How can you stay in office? Prime Minister, please pay serious attention.”
Similarly, chairman of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party Nepal, Kamal Thapa, has demanded the dismissal of Kirati. Thapa insisted that Minister Kirati should be fired, stating that those who do not believe in Christianity are traitors.
“In Nepal, millions of people have embraced Christianity today. They are exercising their constitutional rights and adhering to the principles outlined in the constitution,” stated Minister Kirati. He added, “To reject Christians is to reject the constitution. Those who defy the constitution are traitors.”
Applause followed this statement, with Kirati warning that those engaging in treason would face arrest and imprisonment.
The video clip has gone viral on social media, prompting a unique challenge where many individuals are challenging Minister Kirati, urging him to ‘jail them’, asserting their non-Christian identity.
Minister Kirati also presented global religious population statistics, questioning why some in Nepal reject the Christian faith despite its widespread acceptance worldwide. He claimed both he and Prime Minister Prachanda respect the founder of Christianity.
In response, calls for Kirati’s resignation have intensified, with people and leaders expressing discontent over his statements. The minister’s strong remarks have placed him at the center of a growing debate on religious freedom and constitutional rights in Nepal.
“Tourism Minister Sudan Kirati, who made the irresponsible statement that all non-Christians are traitors, should be fired immediately,” Thapa wrote on social media,“Let Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal take note of this.”
Minister for Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation, Sudan Kirati, has said that his statement about all religions having equal rights was exaggerated .
“I talked about religious tolerance. I said no one should be an extremist,” he told Republica, “This speech was exaggerated and turned into something else.” Pointing to the viral video clip, he mentioned that listening to just one line would clarify his intended message. “I spoke only positive things in the speech that was more than half an hour long,” he said, “Listening to the full video can make my opinion clear.”