Protestant organisations operating in Jharkhand, Manipur and Mumbai have been targeted. Some have been in the country since the 1950s. The Home Affairs Ministry has revoked their licences to receive foreign funds, making the groups’ work impossible. For Sajan K George, forced conversion charges are false and are designed to increase ethnic-religious tensions.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Four Protestant NGOs are at risk of closure for allegedly proselytising. The four groups are: Ecreos oculis North Western Gossner Evangelical Church, which operates in Jharkhand; the Evangelical Churches Association (ECA), which operates in Manipur; the Northern Evangelical Lutheran Church, which operates in Jharkhand; and the New Life Fellowship Association (NLFA), which operates in Mumbai.
India’s Home Affairs Ministry recently suspended the licence that NGOs need to receive funds from abroad, making it practically impossible for them to operate. Some of them have been present in India since the 1950s (ECA) and the 1960s (NLFA). Here is what Sajan K George, president of the Global Council for Indian Christian (GCIC), had to say about the situation.
This is not the first time that the government has cancelled the FCRA[*] licences of NGOs. Such licences are mandatory for non-profit organisations to receive foreign funds. Just like anti-conversion laws, the FCRA is used as a tool to target and control non-profits that don't fit into the government’s ideological pattern and agenda.
Last February, the government suspended the licence of the New Life Fellowship Association (NLFA) after right-wing Bajrang Dal[†] militants disrupted a prayer meeting organised by the NLFA in Mumbai, allegedly because they thought that it was a cover for religious conversions.
Two of the suspended NGOs are in Jharkhand and right-wing groups exploit tribal people and Dalits, who benefit from the social outreach in predominantly tribal areas.
The bogey of forced conversion is routinely used to fuel ethnic-religious tensions in society, sowing seeds of suspicion against the vulnerable Christian community. Draconian anti-conversion laws and radical vigilante groups have generated widespread insecurity among Christians.
In secular India, far-right extremists complain about forced conversions, but government statistics show that since 1951 the size of the Christian population in India has been constant or slightly decreased. In the 2001 census, Christians made up 2.34 per cent of the population; in 2011 they fell to 2.30 per cent.
The aforementioned Christian NGOs are not the first ones to be targeted. In 2016 it was the turn of Compassion International, an exceptional Christian NGO that serves people of all faiths without discrimination of caste or creed and which has never required people to attend their religious services or used other forms of proselytising as a condition for help.
In India, child sponsorship through Compassion International has resulted in significantly higher rates of school graduation and improved adult employment outcomes.
Compassion International has been the largest single provider of aid for at-risk children in the country, helping 145,000 children, and is the largest provider of humanitarian funds to the country.
[*] Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.
[†] The youth branch of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a radical right-wing Hindu organisation.