In March, Compassion International was forced to close down its child sponsorship programs in India after the government banned them from operating in the country. This ban effectively denied the sponsorship of over 147,000 children who depended on the aid given by Compassion International. Unfortunately, India has continued its crackdown on foreign faith-based NGOs who they claim are just fronts for evangelism efforts in the South Asian nation. As religious intolerance continues to grow in India and the country continues to isolate itself, what does this mean for the country’s significant religious minority populations?
04/29/2017 India (Alabama Baptist) – About seven years ago David Platt — then pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham — challenged his congregation to do something big. He challenged them to “take India” — to pay for the child survival programs run by Compassion International in India for a whole year, a $525,000 price tag.
They did — in 2010 the congregation funded 21 child survival programs. In the years that followed, they funded 12.
But now, not only will Brook Hills not be able to provide for these programs in India — Compassion won’t be able to have them at all.
At the beginning of March, Compassion announced it was pulling out of India after 48 years, closing up shop on 589 church partner centers that were taking care of nearly 147,000 babies, children and young adults living in extreme poverty.
The reason? India’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had begun blocking the Christian organization from sending money to its partners in India in May 2016, and Compassion had found no way to resolve the issue, according to the organization’s website.
U.S. leaders stepped in on Compassion’s behalf, including former Secretary of State John Kerry, who spoke with officials in India in summer 2016. More than 35,000 Compassion child sponsors wrote to Congress about the issue.
Stephen Oakley, Compassion’s senior vice president and general counsel, told the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee in December 2016, “We’ve simply run out of funds (in India).”
The Indian government didn’t budge on blocking more from being sent in, and on March 15, Compassion pulled out of the South Asian nation.
Compassion president and CEO Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado said in a press release, “Though we are saying farewell to Compassion’s current program in India, we know that God’s work has not ended. The local church in India remains committed to serving children living in poverty in their country. And the investment made by sponsors in their children’s lives has made a significant difference and will not be forgotten. We continue to lift up in prayer the children, families and staff who are affected by this difficult decision.”
The move is tragic but it’s a sign of greater growing concerns — for starters, that India is cracking down on foreign relief organizations in fear they are using humanitarian work to cover up evangelism, according to WORLD Magazine.
The nation uses its Foreign Contribution Regulation Act to decide on what funds can be sent there, and the act — revised by MHA in 2011 — is now up to broad interpretation, WORLD reported. It includes a line that says the government can deny funds “for any activities detrimental to the national interest.”
That revision was seen by many as yet another step the government has taken toward Hindu nationalism since 2014 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was elected, according to Christianity Today (CT).
About 11,500 nongovernmental organizations — both secular and Christian — in addition to Compassion have lost their licenses to operate in India in that window of time, WORLD reported.