India Refuses to Renew Foreign OK Funding for Charity; religious protests

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Nuns belonging to the Missionaries of Charity of the World walk past a large banner of Mother Teresa before her canonization ceremony, in Calcutta, India on September 3, 2016. REUTERS / Rupak De Chowdhuri

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NEW DELHI, December 27 (Reuters) – The Indian government “refused” on Monday to renew a vital authorization for Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity to obtain foreign funds, cutting off a key source on which the association depended. to carry out its programs for the poor.

Nobel Laureate Mother Teresa, a Roman Catholic nun who died in 1997, founded the MoC in 1950. The charity has more than 3,000 nuns around the world who run hospices, community kitchens, schools, and lepers and homes for abandoned children.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government on Saturday refused permission from the charity under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) after receiving “unfavorable contributions,” according to a government statement.

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“When considering the Commerce Ministry’s renewal request, some unfavorable contributions were noted,” the Interior Ministry said, without providing details.

The ministry also dismissed an earlier claim by West Bengal state chief minister Mamata Banerjee that the charity’s bank accounts were frozen.

The MoC later confirmed in a statement that its FCRA application had not been renewed and that it had instructed its centers not to maintain foreign contribution accounts until the matter was resolved.

The move comes as die-hard Hindu groups affiliated with Modi’s party have accused the culture ministry of running religious conversion programs under the guise of charity by providing poor Hindus and tribal communities with food, medicine, money, free education and shelter. The Commerce Department rejected these allegations.

Earlier, Chief Minister Banerjee of West Bengal, where the MoC is based, wrote in a tweet that she was shocked to learn that at Christmas the Union Ministry had frozen all bank accounts in the MoC in India.

“Their 22,000 patients and staff were left without food or medicine. While the law is paramount, humanitarian efforts must not be compromised, ”said Banerjee, an opposition leader and vocal critic of the Modi government.

The federal government said MoC’s accounts were frozen by the bank based on the charity’s own request.

Vicar General Dominic Gomes of the Archdiocese of Calcutta said the freezing of accounts was “a cruel Christmas present for the poorest of the poor.”

The row comes days after die-hard Hindu vigilantes disrupted Christmas religious services in parts of India, including some states ruled by Modi’s party ahead of local elections in the coming months.

ATTACKS ON MINORITIES

Since Modi came to power in 2014, right-wing Hindu groups have consolidated their position in all states and launched attacks on minorities, claiming they are trying to prevent religious conversions.

Christians and other critics note that Christians make up only 2.3% of India’s 1.37 billion people, while Hindus are the overwhelming majority. They reject the excuse given by some Hindu groups to prevent conversions as a reason for violence against Christians.

The Hindu newspaper on Monday reported a disruption to Christmas celebrations over the weekend and last week, including the vandalism of a life-size statue of Jesus Christ in Ambala in Haryana, a northern state ruled by the Nationalist Party Bharatiya Janata (BJP) from Modi.

He said activists burned a model of Santa Claus and chanted anti-Christmas slogans outside a church in Varanasi, Modi’s parliamentary constituency and Hinduism’s holiest city.

Elias Vaz, national vice president of the Catholic Union of India, condemned the latest incidents.

“India’s strength is in its diversity and the people who made it on Christmas are the real anti-nationals,” Vaz said.

Contacted by telephone, the federal and state governments declined to comment on the protests.

Several Indian states have passed or are considering anti-conversion laws that challenge the constitutionally protected right to freedom of belief in the country.

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Reporting by Manoj Kumar, Saurabh Sharma, Subrata Nagchoudhury and Rupam Jain, editing by Barbara Lewis and Bernadette Baum

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