In a context of confusion and flashy journalism, rigour becomes a precious value.
Government restrictions force Compassion to leave the country. Hundreds of “churches that are passionate about caring for children will still be there” for the 145,000 sponsored children, says the NGO Director in Italy, Silvio Galvano.
If nothing changes before March 15, Christian NGO Compassion will cease to work in India. Significant legal changes made by the government have led the organisation to announce they have no other option than leaving the country.
“In our view, the Indian government wants to limit the expansion of Christianity in India”, says Director of Compassion in Italy and Spain, Silvio Galvano. But the organisation should not be seen as a threat, because they do “not require any child to become a Christ-follower in order to receive the benefits of our program”.
There has not been any formal accusation against the organisation that sponsors 145,000 children in India. So, what is the situation at the moment?
Evangelical Focus asked Director of Compassion in Italy and Spain, Silvio Galvano, about this situation.
Q. Why are the authorities upset with your work in India?
A. In 2011, the Indian government made significant changes to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), which is the law that regulates NGO’s entry of foreign funds into the country. These revisions allowed the government to restrict NGO’s whose purpose differs from India’s political ideology. This means the India government can restrict Christian NGO activity if they feel it threatens their national interest.
The current India government has placed increased scrutiny specifically against NGOs. -One of its concerns is that foreign aid comes with expectations, so they want to reduce their dependency on foreign funding. In the past 12 months we have seen many NGOs, big and small, faith-based and secular, affected by the government’s restrictions.
Q. Has Compassion infringed laws of the country? Is there a trial or judicial process open against the organisation?
A. No, Compassion has not infringed any Indian laws and there was no judicial process open against us, but the Indian government put Compassion on what’s called the “prior approval” list. This is an administrative action and it means that Compassion must have the approval of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for each transaction, regardless of the partners FCRA approval. We have submitted over 100 channel partners for prior approval per the government’s instructions, but the government has not responded to any of these requests.
In our view, the Indian government wants to limit the expansion of Christianity in India. Additionally, they misunderstand Compassion’s model, assuming our sole intent is converting children to Christianity, when in fact, our primary goal is to rescue children from poverty.
We do not require any child to become a Christ-follower in order to receive the benefits of our program. Compassion provides all of its services irrespective of caste, creed, class or religion. In India, the majority of the children we support come from other faiths.
Q. What would it mean your leave for the 145,000 children you are working with?
A. We are surely heartbroken for over the 145.000 babies, children, young adults and mothers who will no longer receive the benefits of Compassion’s program. We are distraught over the partnerships with 589 churches that will come to an end.
But we have hope because we know that, even after Compassion has left, those 589 Indian partner churches that are passionate about caring for children will still be there. They will continue to do what they can to serve the 145.000 children throughout their country. Compassion’s model has always been to lift up the local churches so they can better serve their own communities. We trust those churches grew stronger through years of partnering with Compassion, and they will take that strength and grow it to meet the unique needs of the communities they serve.
Q. What else is Compassion doing about this situation?
A. Compassion is committed to the children we serve in India. We are pursuing every possible conversation with government officials in hopes of protecting our ministry, our partners and the children. However, unless something changes before March 15, we will be forced to permanently close down our operations. We continue to ask our supporters to pray for a solution that allows Compassion to continue its work in India.
As of today, some of our projects in India are still operating using local resources, but they are doing so in a limited manner.
Despite this heartbreaking situation in India, please know that Compassion’s ministry is still flourishing. We are continuing to serve more than 1.8 million children in 25 other countries. Our partnerships with more than 6,700 churches in those countries are as strong as ever. And our commitment to answering God’s call to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name is unwavering.
We would ask you please to continue praying for the children of India. Pray also that God will continue to equip the Church in India and that it will rise up to care for the vulnerable. Pray too for India’s leaders — that they would be willing to speak directly to us about this situation so we may come to a mutual understanding that benefits the children of India. And, finally, please continue to pray for Compassion, that new doors of ministry would open even as some are closing.