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India cracks down on activities of Mother Teresa’s charity

India has refused to renew a foreign funding permit for the Missionaries of Charity, a Christian organization founded by Mother Teresa, known for its work with the country’s poor, after efforts extended to tighten restrictions on charities funded by overseas donations.

The move comes as members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party and other Hindu nationalist groups oppose what they see as attempts by Christians to use charity as a means of converting Hindus, who constitute the religious majority in India.

Announcing the move on Monday, the Interior Department said it refused to renew Charity Missionaries’ registrations under the Foreign Contributions Regulations Act, which controls the ability of nonprofit groups to . get funding abroad, on Christmas Day. The Missionaries of Charity’s application for such funding will expire on December 31. Although the organization may still operate, charities and other groups rely on overseas funding. , such as from the Catholic community outside of India.

The Home Office said that “several adverse inputs were noticed” while reviewing the charity’s application for an extension, without elaborating. However, it denied accusations by some opposition politicians that it had also frozen the Charity Evangelist’s bank accounts.

Founded by Mother Teresa in 1950, the Missionaries of Charity has been widely recognized for its work in caring for the poor and ailing residents of Kolkata in eastern India and elsewhere. It is one of the most famous Catholic charities in the world.

Mother Teresa, a Roman Catholic nun who was born in Macedonia in 1910 and later moved to India, won the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize for her work. Pope Francis declares her to be a saint in 2016, 19 years after her death.

Charity evangelists have long drawn the ire of right-wing Hindus, who accuse the organization of using charity work to convert beneficiaries to Christianity. This month, it faced a police lawsuit in the western Indian state of Gujarat for allegedly trying to rape Hindu girls.

The group denies those allegations, saying they “do not convert anyone or force anyone to marry according to the Christian faith,” according to the Indian Express.

In a statement Monday, the Missionaries of Charity confirmed that “its application to renew FCRA has not been approved” and will not operate any foreign-funded accounts “until matters be solved”. It also denied that its bank accounts had been frozen by the government.

Christians call for religious freedom at a rally in Bengaluru on December 22
Christians call for religious freedom at a rally in Bengaluru on December 22 © BG-Shailendra Bhojak/PTI/dpa

Modi’s government has for years sought to squeeze foreign-funded charities and NGOs. The government last year tightened restrictions on nonprofit groups and had previously frozen the bank accounts of groups such as Greenpeace and Amnesty International.

Many Christians, who make up about 2% of the population, say that attacks and intolerance against them from members of the Hindu right-wing in India are on the rise.

Several Christmas celebrations over the weekend were disrupted by Hindu nationalist activists who oppose outside gatherings, and a church in northern India has bag destructive.

Authorities have also cracked down on what they say are campaigns by Muslims and Christians to convert Hindus, who make up about four-fifths of India’s population. Critics say such allegations are conspiracy theories used to limit the rights of religious minorities.

Some states ruled by the BJP have recently passed or under consideration legislation forbids religious conversion to marriage under the specter of a “love jihad” campaign by Muslim men to convert women to Hinduism.

Additional reporting by Amy Kazmin

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