Mother Teresa's charity no longer banned from receiving foreign donations in India

Catholic nuns from the order of the Missionaries of Charity gather under a picture of Mother Teresa during the tenth anniversary of her death in Kolkata, India, in this September 5, 2007, file photo.
Catholic nuns from the order of the Missionaries of Charity gather under a picture of Mother Teresa during the tenth anniversary of her death in Kolkata, India, in this September 5, 2007, file photo. | Reuters/Jayanta Shaw/Files

India’s government has restored the license of Mother Teresa’s charity to receive and spend overseas funds for its work in the country less than two weeks after blocking the Catholic group from receiving foreign donations. Licenses of many other Christian groups remain revoked.

The Ministry of Home Affairs reversed the ban on the Missionaries of Charity on Friday, Vatican News reported. The charity founded by the  Albanian-Indian Catholic nun runs orphanages and schools for abandoned children and relies heavily on foreign donations to carry out its mission.

“We never expected that our registration could be cancelled but it happened,” Sunita Kumar told the Union of Catholic Asia News agency. “We are happy that the restoration of our license happened without much delay."

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On Christmas Day, the government agency announced that Missionaries of Charity no longer met eligibility requirements under the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act because the charity was found to have “adverse inputs” when its renewal application was reviewed. 

About a week before Christmas, police in the western state of Gujarat began investigating the charity after officials filed a police complaint under the state’s “anti-conversion law,” alleging the nuns were “forcibly” converting girls.

Police filed the case for allegedly “hurting Hindu religious sentiments” and “luring” young girls “toward Christianity” in a shelter home the charity runs in Vadodara city, The Indian Express reported at the time.

The police complaint said the charity’s Home for Girls in Makarpura area was “forcing” girls to read the Bible and pray with the intention of “steering them into Christianity.”

A spokesperson from the charity had denied that it was “involved in any religious conversion activity.”

“We have 24 girls in the home. These girls live with us and they follow our practice as they see us doing the same when we pray and live,” the spokesperson said. “We have not converted anyone or forced anyone to marry into Christian faith.”

Founded by the famed Roman Catholic nun in 1950 in Calcutta, the charity runs orphanages, schools for abandoned children, soup kitchens and other charitable operations. The organization serves “the poorest of the poor, irrespective of social class, creed or color.”

“We deliberately choose to show God’s concern for the poorest and the lowliest, remaining right on the ground, while offering immediate and effective service to those in need, until they can find someone who can help them in a better and more lasting way,” the website notes. 

Bishop M. Jagjivan, the moderator of the National Christian Council, an organization representing India’s Christian community, told The Wall Street Journal last month that India’s government has increasingly rejected foreign-funding approvals for Christian groups, forcing many faith-run organizations to shut.

On Jan. 1, 2022, the interior ministry published a list of more than 6,000 nonprofits whose FCRA registrations had been “deemed to cease,” many of which are Christian groups, including the Catholic organization Salesians of Don Bosco.

“These NGOs can no longer receive any foreign contribution. They can also not utilize what they have already received,” said the list.

In 2017, Christian child sponsorship organization Compassion International, which helped 147,000 children in India, ceased operations in India after being blocked from receiving foreign funding. Over 100 members of U.S. Congress wrote a letter to India’s interior minister calling for Compassion International to be allowed to receive foreign funds.

In 2020, the Indian government banned six other Christian groups from receiving foreign funds: New Life Fellowship Association, Evangelical Churches Association of Manipur, Ecreosoculis North Western Gossner Evangelical, and Northern Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Believers Church, a network founded by Gospel for Asia’s K.P. Yohannan, and three other associated organizations were blocked from receiving foreign funds in 2017. 

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014, India’s government has increasingly tightened rules on foreign funding of non-governmental organizations, many of them religious. 

While Christians make up only 2.3% of India’s population and Hindus comprise about 80%, there has been an uptick in radical Hindu nationalist attacks on religious minorities and prosecution of anti-conversion laws. 

Several Indian states, including Gujarat, have passed “anti-conversion” laws, which presume that Christians “force” or give financial benefits to Hindus to lure them into converting to Christianity.

While some of these laws have been around for decades, no Christian has been convicted of “forcibly” converting anyone to Christianity. These laws embolden Hindu nationalist organizations to make false charges against Christians and conduct mob attacks. 

The watchdog group Open Doors USA, which monitors persecution in over 60 countries, reports that “Hindu radicals often attack Christians with little to no consequences.”

“Hindu extremists believe that all Indians should be Hindus and that the country should be rid of Christianity and Islam,” an Open Doors fact sheet on India explains. “They use extensive violence to achieve this goal, particularly targeting Christians from a Hindu background. Christians are accused of following a ‘foreign faith’ and blamed for bad luck in their communities.”

For India’s Christians, 2021 was the “most violent year” in the country’s history, according to a report. At least 486 violent incidents of Christian persecution were reported in the year.

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