World Vision India is just one of many charities to have its license to receive foreign funds suspended by the Hindu-led government. It’s another clear sign of Christian persecution, says Bishop Joseph D’Souza. What happened to peace on earth and goodwill to all people?
For the past few decades, Christmas has meant trouble for Indian Christians.
During the holiday season, Hindu extremists ramp up attacks on Christian churches and organisations, always with the same accusations of forced and fraudulent conversions.
It appears that Hindu extremists just cannot accept that there are Indians of various backgrounds, castes, and religions who find Jesus Christ extremely attractive. Many of them freely choose to follow him of their own accord. Perhaps these extremists don’t watch the many testimonies shared on YouTube of Indians who have found Jesus.
Instead of enjoying freedom of religion, we are, once more, surprised by news reports that the Indian government has suspended the license of a charity as well known and respected as World Vision, meaning that it can no longer receive foreign funds under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).
World Vision India is completely secular. They do not engage in evangelism, even when they are criticised by other Christian groups for not doing so. Yet the government has shut them down.
When people experience the supernatural power of God, they turn to him in faith
But it’s not just big non-government organisations (NGOs) who are being targeted. In 2022, thousands of Christian groups found their licenses to receive foreign money suspended. Most of these were involved in compassionate social work that the people of India depend upon. The lives of millions are affected by today’s growing economic crisis – and the poor in India face the worst of it.
How does anyone become so callous as to ignore the charitable work that these organisations undertake?
At the same time, there is an open door for investment into India’s business sector, meaning that the rich grow richer in the absence of a philanthropic social structure. The poor, the hungry and the unemployed are left to fend for themselves. As India climbs up the global hunger index, now ranking 107 out of 121 countries, the situation is becoming very concerning. A massive social crisis is brewing.
Now, a leader from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has filed a petition in the Supreme Court based - falsely - on the existence of forced conversions and the changing demographics of India.
Others are challenging this defamation of the Christian community, pointing out that earlier petitions by the same person have already been rejected. The Supreme Court, however, has asked for a report on the issue of forced conversions, even after the Indian states which have anti-conversion laws have been unable to prove forced conversions have taken place.
At issue here is the religious freedom of Christians in India. Are they free to practice and share their faith? Or have we ignored human rights laws and banned certain religious groups altogether?
A living faith
The Christian faith involves engaging in all kinds of social and compassionate activity, based on Jesus’ teachings. Is helping the poor now a crime? And if people who are touched by the love of Jesus decide freely to follow him, is that also a crime?
It seems obvious, but decisions like this should be a person’s individual right. And in India, our constitution - supposedly - guarantees it.
The biggest question now is whether the Supreme Court will protect the rights of Christians to freely practice and share their faith. Most importantly, are they going to assume that poor and marginalised people are incapable of making their own decision regarding which faith they will follow?
During Jesus’ lifetime, when people experienced the supernatural power of God, they turned to faith in him. They were healed or touched by his compassion and began to follow him.
Peace and goodwill
Right-wing Hindu extremists, working towards Hindu nationalism, are just as dangerous as those who advocate for Islamic nationalism or Christian nationalism. The message of Christmas, which is an offer of peace and goodwill towards men, is lost in this current context.
Is helping the poor a crime? And if people decide freely to follow him, is that also a crime?
Now, foreign funding from Hindu extremists outside of India is becoming a startling reality. Just look at the case of the fundraiser in Frisco, Texas, where one of the explicitly stated goals was to raise funds to demolish Christian churches in India.
If these tactics prevail, violence against minority religious communities will escalate - all with the tacit approval of local governments. Our great nation of India is sadly now even included on genocide watch lists.
As Indians who take pride in our country and its constitution, we need to decide if we will continue to ignore the extremists targeting Christians, and other minorities. As peace-loving Indians, we need to determine if we will completely ignore this season’s message of peace on earth and goodwill toward all people.