India has blocked foreign donations to Mother Teresa’s charity which runs orphanages and shelters for the homeless. The government cited “adverse inputs” as a reason for not renewing the religious congregation’s license to receive funds from abroad.
The Delhi government did not elaborate on the refusal which came on the heels of police allegations that the Missionaries of Charity had lured poor Hindu girls to embrace Christianity in Gujarat state. There has been a rising level of intolerance towards the community in India.
The nun-led charity vehemently denied the charges of forced religious conversion, while the Christmas Day announcement sparked a political storm.
“I didn’t even believe it because I said it can’t happen. How could anybody do this, especially when the Missionaries of Charity is working for the poor?” Sunita Kumar, spokeswoman for the order, told RFI.
The charity’s foreign donations totalled over €11.5 million in the financial year ending March 2021 but Kumar said the work among the poor will continue despite the stoppage.
Love and pray
“The Reverend Mother would just say let us pray for him or whoever has done this and just say love him. That would have been her answer,” added Kumar, who has authored a biographical book on Mother Teresa, the 1979 Nobel laureate.
The charity has said it will comply with the government’s decision.
"Therefore ... we have asked our centers not to operate any of the (overseas donation) accounts until the matter is resolved," it added in a statement.
Mother Teresa received the Nobel Prize for her humanitarian work a year before India accorded its highest civilian title to the diminutive Roman Catholic nun in 1980.
The charity runs hospices and orphanages which earned Mother Teresa the sobriquet “Saint of the Gutters.”
John Dayal, a prominent Christian activist, said the denial will cut the charity off from vital resources.
“The organization also takes care...of thousands of new-born babies, picked up from the gutters or dung heaps, and these are children who are born to unmarried mothers but then they are our children too,” Dayal told RFI.
“These are things which will weigh very heavily on our collective national conscience if the donations are denied for long,” the activist added.
Dayal, a former president of the All India Catholic Union, hoped Indian authorities will lift the bar on the charity’s foreign funding.
Angelina Jasnani, president of India’s oldest Catholic association, called it a “harsh step.”
“A lifeline for those in need has been snapped as funds for all this work for the marginalized comes from generous individuals across the world,” she added.
The BJP government in recent years has acted against NGOs drawing foreign funds, and bank accounts of groups such as Greenpeace and Amnesty International have been blocked.
The political opposition targeted the BJP party government and said it was trying to harass Christians who account for just three percent of India's overwhelmingly Hindu population.
“Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity are the latest victims of the government’s vicious, vengeful and hate-driven agenda against minorities,” Congress party spokesman Randeep Surjewala alleged.
The BJP argued the outrage was crafted to win hearts and minds of Christian voters in Goa ahead of legislative elections in the tourism state where the community accounts for a quarter of the population.
A 1994 TV documentary, controversially entitled “Hell’s Angel”, criticized Mother Teresa’s stand on foeticide, contraception and her ties with rich religious and political leaders as it asked whether she deserved her saintly image.
Her supporters reject the content of the serial and say Mother Teresa’s canonisation was ample proof of her commitments which offered the poorest of the poor the opportunity of dignified death.
Born Anjeze Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, Mother Teresa was declared a saint by Pope Francis in 2016, nineteen years after her death in Kolkata city where the Missionaries of Charity is headquartered.