Will the Missionaries of Charity soon have to leave India? The Ministry of Home Affairs confirmed on Christmas Day that it had refused to renew the foreign funding license of the congregation founded by Mother Teresa. The latest decision of the Indian government leads many to fear that the Missionaries of Charity will no longer be able to continue their work among India’s “poorest of the poor.”
A work that depends mainly on foreign donations
“We have been informed that our application for renewal of the FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) has not been approved. Therefore, […] we have asked our centers not to withdraw from any of the accounts with foreign funding until the issue is resolved,” said the congregation’s superior general, Sister Prema, in a statement on December 27. The license is required in India to receive foreign donations. For the sisters, it is critical for their continued service to the poor, since the Missionaries of Charity rely heavily on foreign donations to carry out their charitable work.
The congregation oversees many projects in India such as schools, clinics, hospices, and homes for abandoned children. But Hindu nationalists have long accused them of using these projects, these structures, to convert people to Christianity. In mid-December, Missionaries of Charity in western India were accused of violating a law penalizing forced conversion. The nuns run a home for young women in the city of Ahmedabad. A complaint was filed by members of a child protection committee who accused the nuns of forcing those taken in to wear rosaries, to pray and to eat non-vegetarian food. The congregation, whose mission is to be with the poorest of the poor, denies all allegations.
2% of the Christian population
For several months the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been seeking to reduce foreign funding for charities and other NGOs based in India. Last year, restrictions led to the freezing of bank accounts belonging to Greenpeace and Amnesty International. Discrimination and violence against religious minorities in India, where Hindus are in the majority, has been steadily increasing since Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014, according to religious leaders. The two main minorities regularly persecuted are Muslims (who make up 14% of the population) and Christians, who make up just over 2%.
Who are the Missionaries of Charity?
On September 10, 1946, while traveling by train from Calcutta to Darjeeling for her community’s annual retreat, Mother Teresa received her “inspiration,” what she called “the call within the call.” Inexplicably, the desire to quench Jesus’ thirst for love became the driving force of her entire life. Over the course of weeks and months, through voices and inner visions, she came to understand Jesus’ message better: he asked her to found a religious congregation, the Missionaries of Charity, dedicated to the service of the poor. Nearly two years of trials and discernment passed before she began her work. On August 17, 1948, she wore a white sari with blue piping for the first time and left her convent in Loreto to enter the world of the poorest. Two years later, on October 7, 1950, the congregation of the Missionaries of Charity was created.