INDIA: Funding licences suspended in fresh assault on Christian organisations

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”
(Psalm 46: 1–3)

India’s Ministry of Home Affairs has suspended the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) licences of six non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The FCRA licence is required to receive donations from abroad. While an NGO’s funding is being investigated, it is not allowed to receive any foreign donations and its bank account is also frozen. This suspension of FCRA licences therefore effectively cuts off an NGO from any overseas-based financial sources for an indefinite time.

Four Christian charities have been affected: Ecreosoculis North Western Gossner Evangelical in Jharkhand, New Life Fellowship Association in Mumbai, Northern Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jharkhand, and the Evangelical Churches Association in Manipur. The reason for the suspension of their licenses has not been specified, but may be due to reports that the NGOs seek to proselytise locals.

This is not the first time that Christian charities have faced the cessation of funding from abroad. In 2017, the US-based donor Compassion International had to cease activities in India because it was deemed to fund NGOs encouraging religious conversions. It had been the biggest donor to India amongst charities. Since then, attacks on Christians and Muslims have increased and India is now tenth on the World Watch List of Open Doors, which assesses the most difficult places to be a Christian.

In the first six months of 2020, 135 cases of assaults against Christians were reported in India. The cases included physical violence, harassment and threats, as well as false accusations which have led directly to the arrests and imprisonment of Christians.

Most disturbingly, three Christians are reported to have died in India in the first half of 2020 because of their faith, according to a July 2020 report by the Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India.

The Indian government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been criticised for using the cancellation of FCRA licenses as a means to silence Christian charities that speak out about the social costs of economic development in India.

Since Modi took the helm in 2014, a total of 15,000 foreign NGO licences have been revoked. In November 2016 alone, the Ministry of Home Affairs rejected the licence renewals of 25 charities, including those working on human rights, with the alleged cause being that these NGOs were deemed to be “anti-national”. In early September 2020, the Modi government tabled changes to the FCRA that would impose further restrictions to stifle foreign donations from critics of the government.

Home Group Prayer

Dear Lord and Heavenly Father,

We pray at this time for Christians in India who face persecution: for those who are attacked both physically and verbally, for those who are falsely accused and imprisoned, and for those who are forced to flee from their homes.

We also pray for those charities who are working in India, that they may be allowed to work peacefully and for the common good, to benefit the poorest and most socially disadvantaged in society. We pray for them to have the courage to speak out against social injustice even when pressure is put on them to stay silent.

Lord, we pray for those who are persecuting Christians in India, that you may soften their hearts and open their eyes to your redeeming love.

Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

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