NEW DELHI – India has blocked a charity founded by Mother Teresa from accepting foreign donations for its humanitarian work.
It was not clarified why the government on Monday refused to renew the license of the organization, Missionaries of Charity, under the country’s law regulating foreign contributions. The group can appeal, but for now, a major source of funding has been cut.
The news came at a tense Christmas time, when churches were vandalized and celebrations disrupted by hundreds of right-wing Hindus across the country.
The increase in attacks on Christians, who make up around 2% of India’s population, is part of a larger shift in which religious minorities feel less secure. Anti-Christian militias sweep villages, storm churches, burn Christian literature, attack schools and attack worshipers. In recent months, right-wing Hindus have clashed with Muslims in Friday prayers in northern Haryana state.
At a conference last week, hundreds of right-wing Hindu monks openly called for the murder of Muslims in their quest to make India a constitutionally secular republic a Hindu nation.
In October, Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited Pope Francis to visit India, home to one of the oldest and largest Christian populations in Asia. But it remains to be seen whether the government’s latest move to cut foreign funding for the Christian charity will complicate this invitation.
Under Mr. Modi’s government, India also tightened the rules on foreign funding of non-governmental organizations. He has placed restrictions on many Christian and Muslim nonprofits and put others on a watch list for breaking Indian laws, especially laws regarding religious conversions.
Non-profit organizations are required to file detailed financial statements of their foreign funds and how they use them in India and cannot receive these funds until their licenses are approved by the government.
Last year, human rights organization Amnesty International shut down its operations in India in response to a series of government reprisals, including the freezing of its bank accounts. The government said at the time that the organization repeatedly violated local laws by circumventing regulations under which foreign entities can receive donations from abroad.
Sunita Kumar, spokesperson for the Missionaries of Charity in the eastern city of Kolkata, where she is based, said on Tuesday she was convinced the licensing issue could be resolved. She said the charity’s work would not be affected immediately, although it derives much of its income from foreign donors.
“There are enough local donations too, so we can handle that,” she said, without explaining how long he would be able to support his work with only local donations.
According to documents filed by the government, foreign donations accounted for more than $ 13 million of the charity’s revenue in the fiscal year ended March 2021. The percentage of the total was unclear, as the charity does not reveal this figure.
Mother Teresa, a Roman Catholic nun, founded the Missionaries of Charity in 1950. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 in recognition of her work with the poor and the sick, and was declared a saint in 2016, aged nine after his death. .
The association provides intensive care and medical infrastructure in a country where, even before the pandemic, the health system struggled to meet the growing needs of its 1.4 billion people. The devastating second wave of the coronavirus in India has killed hundreds of thousands of people.
This month, police in the western state of Gujarat said they were investigating a complaint against the charity for forcing girls in a foster home to read the Bible and wear a cross – accusations Ms. Kumar, the spokesperson for the charity, dismissed.
“I have worked here for 45 years and nothing like this has ever happened,” she said.
On Monday, opposition leaders criticized the government’s decision.
“It is indeed shocking,” Shashi Tharoor, member of parliament for the southern state of Kerala, from the main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, said. Twitter. “When Mother Teresa wins a Nobel Prize, India rejoices. When his organization serves the poor and destitute, the government cuts their funding. “