Indian Christians fear continuing to target Missionaries of Charity | National Catholic Register


The Hindu nationalist government has reinstated the license for the Missionaries of Charity congregation to receive foreign donations which the government rescinded on Christmas Day – but Catholic leaders warn that further actions aimed at undermining the order founded by Mother Teresa are likely to occur.

The January 7 announcement by the Federal Ministry of the Interior surprised many. On December 31, the government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had declared the religious congregation ineligible to receive foreign funds at the end of the year when it extended the renewal deadline for law licensees. on Foreign Contribution Registration (FCRA). The government reiterated that this provision would not apply to MCs, as their application had already been “rejected”.

However, a week later, the same government gave in to Indian and international protests and announced the reinstatement of the FCRA license for MCs; it was renewed for five years.

The earlier ruling handed down against the Missionaries of Charity by the BJP government not only generated protests across India but was debated in the British Parliament.

“We are relieved that the government has responded to the protests and reinstated the FCRA license of the Missionaries of Charity,” Auxiliary Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas de Ranchi, former general secretary of the Catholic Bishops‘ Conference of India, told the Register. January 17. .

As supporters and volunteers of the religious congregation tried to raise funds to ensure that the poor in some 290 houses run by missionaries in India would not suffer from the fund freeze, Naveen Patnaik, the chief minister of the Eastern Odisha State, announced before the The freeze has been lifted and 7.9 million rupees (about $106,000) would be transferred from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund to 13 institutions run by the charity in Odisha .

Patnaik has even tasked senior officials with ensuring that the funds reach the homes for people with Hansen’s disease (leprosy) and orphanages in the area, run by the congregation founded by Saint Teresa of Calcutta.

“We were stunned when the FCRA was cancelled. In Kolkata, we were planning to set up ‘collection camps’ outside the homes of MCs,” said Sunil Lucas, former chairman of Signis India and close associate of MCs for decades, to the Register. “I contacted the leaders of the Sikh forum and asked for support for a week for an MC center. They gladly said, ‘We will support you for two weeks.’ »

“Such is the love and respect for MC nuns,” Lucas said. “Yet Hindu nationalists are shamelessly trying to harass and denigrate them because MCs are the most respected Christian icons in the country.

Widespread outrage

The outrage over the cancellation of the MC’s FCRA license was reflected in a December 28 op-ed by India time, the most widely circulated English-language daily newspaper in the world, headlined “Step Motherly? Is the refusal of renewal of the FCRA for the NGO founded by Mother Teresa justified?

Lamenting the “painful shock” of MCs at Christmas, the op-ed pointed out that the FCRA’s goal is to limit funds for activities “injurious to the national interest” and, therefore, the religious order “should not not be denied FCRA renewal. ”

The editorial further claimed that the FCRA had been made stricter in 2020, opening the door to freezing MC funding, “at a time when India needed the non-profit sector more than ever. [because] its funding and operation were subject to further restrictions. Yet, from food to education, from oxygen to plasma, their service remains invaluable in a country where the state is not always there for everyone.

“St. Teresa’s popularity outside India is second only to that of Gandhi,” AJ Philip, a prominent journalist who worked as editor of several national dailies, pointed out in a syndicated comment.

“It is something that the Sangh Parivar [Hindu fundamentalists] could not come to terms with. They never missed an opportunity to show the saint in a bad light.

Conversion claims

Hindu nationalist activists regularly allege that conversion was the motive for the service of Mother Teresa and her congregation to the poor and destitute.

“But such claims have been dismissed by most people because no one else can do what their nuns alone could do,” said Philip, a non-Catholic Christian based in Kerala.

However, the claims are now being recycled. At the height of the FCRA cancellation controversy, Panchjanya, a weekly produced by the Hindu nationalist organization Rashtriya Swayamsavek Sangh, published an article targeting the Missionaries of Charity; titled “Crucifixion, Power and Conspiracy”, in addition to repeating the conversion claims, it described Mother Teresa’s holiness as “a lie”.

This correspondent interviewed Mother Teresa in November 1995 for the Register, seeking her response to accusations that her service to the poor is aimed at converting Hindus to Catholicism.

“My answer is that God forgive them all, because they don’t know what they are saying,” she said. “I told everyone that what we do is for the love of God, and works of love are always about accepting and respecting others. Works of love are always works of peace. In our house in Kolkata, there is great peace, unity and love. Many Hindu families constantly bring food and clothes to our house for the dying. It is an act of love. I never told them. not asked to come in. They heard about what I’m doing, and they all come.

Violations of religious freedom

The actions against the Missionaries of Charity took place against a backdrop of continued criticism of India’s lack of respect for religious minorities. Last year, the annual report of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom urged the Biden White House to name India on the State Department’s “red list” of countries engaged in “systematic, continuous and flagrant abuses” of religious freedom, the report calling the BJP’s anti-Muslim policy.

Although the Modi government has denied all these charges, Human Rights Watch recently raised similar objections.

“The BJP’s embrace of the Hindu majority at the expense of minorities has seeped into government institutions, undermining the equal protection of the law without discrimination,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch last year, in an assessment of the government’s handling of recent communal violence.

Meanwhile, the Evangelical Fellowship of India said The New York Times last month that “anti-Christian hate crimes have doubled since 2014 [when Modi took power]. The same goes for economic pincer movements. Hindu nationalist lawyers and activists have filed dozens of lawsuits against Christian charities through an organization called the Legal Rights Observatory, depriving them of funds and shutting down many.

A quarter of a century after the death of Mother Teresa, Bishop Mascarenhas told the Register: “There is a clear agenda behind the harassment of MCs. Coordinated and systemic efforts are made [by Hindu nationalists] constantly bashing and putting obstacles in the way of MCs, because Hindus love them.

From left to right: a statue of Mother Teresa bears witness to the affection Indians have for the founder of the Missionaries of Charity. Anto Akkara visits the saint.(Photo: courtesy photo)

“Given our experience, we do not expect the problems to be over. Such offers will be backed again and again,” Bishop Mascarenhas said.

Forced to leave

Meanwhile, on January 3, the Missionaries of Charity sisters bid a tearful farewell to the facility they had run for more than five decades in Kanpur, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, which is led by the BJP.

The nuns had no choice but to leave the establishment run from a rented house in the army cantonment area; the “lease” expired in 2019 and army officials asked the sisters to pay 10 million rupees ($136,000) a year for the past two years to keep the house. The MC nuns preferred to evacuate it, moving more than a dozen orphan children to other centers.

Despite these obstacles, the congregation quietly pursued its mandate to love the “poorest of the poor” that their founder, canonized in September 2016, had prescribed for them.


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