Christian child sponsorship organization Compassion International could be forced to leave India and the 147,000 children it helps there by March after the government blocked funding from outside the subcontinent.
Compassion, which was founded in 1952 to lift children out of poverty "in Jesus' name" throughout the world, revealed late last year that it was hit by a new application of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, which halted its ability to send funds to more than 500 local child development projects in the Hindu-majority nation.
"We are broken-hearted that the Indian government has put us in a position where we may be forced to close our doors in India. We are praying for a solution that allows us to continue working with our 580-plus churches to provide our holistic child development program to more than 147,000 children," Compassion President and CEO Santiago "Jimmy" Mellado said in an update provided to The Christian Post.
"But if nothing changes in the next few weeks, we will be forced to pull out of India in mid-March," Mellado noted.
As Compassion previously explained, the Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been cracking down on organizations receiving foreign aid, making it difficult for operations to continue.
The organization explained in December that 63 of its partners were denied FRCA approval, with officials refusing to provide details behind these denials.
Compassion was forced to end its partnership with the 63 centers, and is also unable to fund any of its remaining partners. Despite repeated requests, the Indian government has apparently continued to refuse to explain its reasoning.
Compassion has been asking over 500,000 of its supporters to write to their congressperson in the U.S. to ask for intervention in the matter, but so far there has been little progress in its cause.
"Since the start of its humanitarian work in India in 1968, more than a quarter-million Indian children and their families have benefited from Compassion's programs," Mellado said in December.
"Our desire to continue serving these children has led us to encourage our supporters to request the help of their congressional representatives. We want nothing more than to comply with Indian law and find favor in the eyes of those with the power to authorize our ongoing care to these children who are suffering in extreme poverty."
An article by Christianity Today on the issue pointed out that the Indian government has not provided a back-up plan for the Indian children who will no longer receive sponsorship if Compassion is indeed forced to leave the country by March.
Compassion spokesperson Becca Bishop said that there is hope that local churches will be able to continue helping the children.
"[The children] may have lost Compassion's support, but they haven't lost the support of their local church. Those churches, if they have the funds, may still be able to carry out a lot of the services," Bishop said.
As evangelical speaker and bestselling author Eric Metaxas recently suggested in an op-ed published in CP, growing nationalism in the country, which views Christianity as a western import and not part of the real India, is likely the reason why Compassion has been targeted.
"The ruling party's commitment to Hindu supremacy is perhaps best reflected in the various laws prohibiting religion conversion," Metaxas pointed out.
"Six Indian states have enacted laws in the past several years that effectively ban conversions from Hinduism to Christianity or to Islam."
Other organizations, such as Christian Aid Mission, a foreign mission board that assists native missionaries, have also argued that Modi's government has been influenced by a Hindu nationalist atmosphere that encourages violence against believers.
Last year, there was a rise in Hindu radical attacks against Christians in the country, with many of them going unpunished. As the Evangelical Fellowship of India's Religious Liberty Commission reported, there were at least 134 attacks on Christians in the first half of the year alone, compared with 147 in all of 2014 and 177 in 2015.
A ministry leader told CP in November that many Indian citizens oppose charitable works in the country if the Christian message is attached to such endeavors.
"They only prefer the pure social works of the Christians. If the Gospel is attached or made part of it, they object and do anything to stop it," the ministry leader added.