Missionaries of Charity face delayed approval of foreign funding
By Linda Bordoni
Christmas Day news of a move by the Indian government to block foreign funds of Saint Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity (MoC) has triggered reactions of concern at a time in which the country's ruling BJP party is accused of promoting hate attacks on religious minorities.
According to a statement released by the Indian Union Home Ministry on Monday, the MoC does not meet conditions under local laws. Thus it refused the application to renew a licence that allows the charity to receive funds from abroad.
The statement said the reason was “not meeting the eligibility conditions” under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) after “adverse inputs were noticed”, without giving further details. As of Monday, the Ministry of Home Affairs states that no “revision application has been received from Missionaries of Charity for review refusal of renewal”. In the meantime, the existing registration remains in place until 31 December 2021.
The news sparked immediate outrage leading to allegations that the Union Ministry at Christmas had frozen all Bank Accounts of the MoC in India, an action that would impact tens of thousands of patients and employees who would be left without food & medicines.
The MoC, however, issued a statement on Monday clarifying that the government Ministry of Home Affairs had not frozen its accounts. It added that since its FCRA renewal application had not been approved, “as a measure to ensure there is no lapse, we have asked our centres not to operate any of the FC accounts until the matter is resolved”. This statement from the MoC based in Calcutta was confirmed by a subsequent statement released the same day by Sr M. Prema the Superior General of the MoC.
A tightening of rules
The legislation regulating foreign contributions to Indian charities was tightened in 2020 by the Modi government, creating difficulties for many international organisations operating in India.
In the current political climate, religious minorities face growing obstacles in a divisive climate fomented by Hindu nationalists who accuse Catholic organisations of proselytism.
Christians and other critics have said the justification of preventing conversions is false and note Christians represent only 2.3 percent of India’s 1.37 billion people, while Hindus are the overwhelming majority, accounting for nearly 80 percent of the country’s population.
Nobel Peace laureate Saint Mother Teresa, who died in 1997, founded the Missionaries of Charity in 1950. The charity has more than 3,000 nuns worldwide who run hospices, community kitchens, schools, leper colonies and homes for abandoned children. (Local news sources)