Compassion International operates in India with 580 partners, providing US$ 50 million a year. In February, the Indian government placed it under its supervision. The group has gone before the US Congress. Radical Hindu group criticises the explicit goal of evangelising children.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The activities of Compassion International, a US Christian NGO, have been placed under the supervision of India’s Home Ministry.
The organisation is suspected of using its funds to convert recipients of aid, thousands of poor children, to Christianity. But after the NGO threatened to suspend all its activities for the benefit of 580 local partners who assist at least 145,000 children, the Ministry said it would reconsider its decision.
"Children will not be denied the help they desperately need,” Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), told AsiaNews. “American families will continue to send money for food and education. "
The US NGO is not the first Christian organisation to be placed under government supervision. Caritas India was treated the same way in 2015.
The affair began in February 2016 when the Indian government placed Compassion International in the 'prior permission category’ " under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 2010 (FCRA), the law that regulates the acceptance and use of foreign funds.
Placing an NGO on this list means that foreign donations cannot be paid directly into organisation’s bank account, but require Home Ministry approval.
Compassion International has been active in India since 1968, and has been working at breaking the cycle of poverty among children. Every year, it gives its local branches the equivalent of US$ 50 million.
Faced with the reluctance of the government to solve the dispute, NGO officials went before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives.
They asked committee members to put pressure on the Indian government; otherwise, they would have to stop providing aid.
Stephen Oakley, the group’s vice president and general counsel, also accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of trying to get rid of foreign NGOs. The Ministry of Home Affairs “evidently views Christian values as a threat to the national interest, particularly if those values are taught to the poor,” he said.
A spokesperson of Ministry of External Affairs defended the government’s decision. India has “one of the largest NGO networks in the world,” he said, with “over three million NGOs”.
After the hearing, the Hindu American Foundation, a US Hindu radical group, criticised US lawmakers for listening to a Christian charitable organisation, labelling as an inappropriate support for a specific religion.
“We believe that Compassion International's claim that it is a humanitarian organisation only, while its publicly stated mission is evangelisation, is disingenuous,” said Suhag Shukla, executive director and legal counsel for the Foundation.
Sajan K George slammed the latter’s attitude. "They take advantage of American hospitality and try to use their persuasive power, defaming and spreading hatred against Christian organisations working to improve various aspects life, regardless of caste or creed."
"I challenge Hindu groups to alleviate the suffering of millions of Dalits, who are denied the right to live in India as respectable citizens,” the Christian leader said.
“It seems that this radical group wants to stifle the rights of Dalit children to have a better future that organisations like Compassion International offer through inclusive and holistic development programmes."
"It's ridiculous for the Hindu American Foundation to enjoy full freedom in the United States, whilst in India tries to suppress its Christian minority."