Jharkhand turns the screws on Christian NGOs. For Bishop of Ranchi, it is an attack against the Church
The government is vetting 88 associations, accusing them of using foreign funds for "forced conversions". The inquiry began last year after a scandal involving the Sisters of Mother Teresa. Poor women and children are at risk. For Archbishop Toppo, "the inquiry does not worry us."
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – The Government of Jharkhand has begun to vet the activities of 88 Christian Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in order to determine whether their foreign funding was used for "forced conversions". If case anomalies are found, NGOs’ license to operate would be withdrawn.
For Mgr Felix Toppo, this “is undoubtedly an attack against the Church.” Speaking to AsiaNews, the archbishop of Ranchi remains “confident that all the charges are unfounded.”
The authorities, the prelate noted, are “examining the documents. The inquiry is ongoing, seeking to understand how the money was received, whether it was properly used or not. For our part, we have let the government carry out the necessary probe, even if we are opposed to the method used against Christian associations that work for the good of so many people, the poor, children and women."
The inquiry into the work of Christian organisations began last year in the wake of a scandal that involved the sale of new-borns from an orphanage run by the Sisters of Mother Teresa.
Since then, the Missionaries of Charity have come to the attention of state authorities. A nun was arrested and is still in prison without a formal charge. The inquiry was later extended to all Christian associations.
News of the new inquiry into 88 Church-run associations has left the local Christian community dejected. Many Catholics already expect more pain from the newly-re-elected Union government, especially after the announcement that the president of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party was going to be the Home Affairs Minister.
On 24 May, a local Christian delegation led by Mgr Telesphore Bilung, auxiliary bishop of Ranchi, presented a memorandum to Jharkhand Governor Draupadi Murmu, asking the authorities not to discriminate against Christian associations through selective scrutiny.
The document stressed that "in total there are around 500 associations in Jharkhand that receive foreign funding, but the government ordered an inquiry only into the 88 Christian ones to see if they ‘use money inappropriately for forced conversions’."
A note from the Special Branch of the Jharkhand Police asks the government to track the donations received from abroad in the 2013-2014 and 2015-2016.
The document divides the NGOs into three groups: the first includes 11 NGOs that received 1.87 billion rupees (US$ 27 million) from abroad; the second group (from 12th to 31st) received 750 million rupees (US$ 10.7 million); and the last group (from 32nd onwards) received 300 million rupees (US$ 4.3 million).
Despite the possible shutdown of NGOs, Mgr Toppo said that he "is not worried about the inquiry, even though it is an attempt at harassment. I am sure the charities have done everything by the book.”