United States Commission On International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Chair Nadine Maenza expressed on Tuesday her concerns regarding India's religious communities facing a "hostile environment."
The USCIRF, which acknowledges religious freedom in India to be "taking a drastic turn downward" as "widespread harassment and violence against religious minorities" are tolerated by state and national governments, posted Maenza's statement on the matter in Twitter. Maenza, who has decades of experience in and a personal advocacy for international religious freedom, is said to be a senior advisor to various organizations against religious oppression.
"USCIRF is concerned with #India using the #FCRA to target NGOs, including religious organizations. These actions continue to fuel a hostile environment for religious communities," Maenza said,
Maenza's remark comes in reaction to a news release from the Voice Of America (VOA) on Sunday regarding India's foreign funding ban on the Missionaries of Charity (MOC), a Catholic congregation of religious nuns attending to the needs of the poorest of the poor.
In November, the USCIRF requested the United States Department of State to include India in its Special Watch List for Countries of Particular Concern. The request also includes Russia, Syria, and Vietnam. The Special Watch List pertains to countries where religious freedom experience violations.
Vatican News reported last December 28 that the Indian government has not renewed the MOC's license which allows the organization to receive foreign funding. The government placed the block on the foreign funds due to the organization not meeting "conditions under local laws," particularly in terms of "eligibility" for its Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.
The government cited "adverse inputs were noticed" though no further information was detailed. India's Ministry of Home Affairs then declared on December 27 that no "revision application has been received from Missionaries of Charity for review refusal of renewal."
The announcement has led to the general public and the international community to believe that the Union Ministry already went ahead in freezing the bank accounts of the MOC. The public outrage comes in anticipation of the big impact MOC's frozen bank accounts would have on the tens of thousands they served that included providing food and medicines to employees and patients.
VOA elaborated that the MOC happened to be the most prominent among the thousands of religious charities and nonprofits affected by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's funding ban, which aims to impose "tighter scrutiny" on the said groups through the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act. Mission Network News reported that a total of 5,789 nongovernment organizations are affected by the government funding ban.
"The effective freeze on the charity's foreign donations is being seen by critics as part of the targeting of religious minorities by Hindu hardliners since Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party came to power," Voice Of America said.
VOA pointed out that the funding ban came after the MOC director was complained for "attempting to convert young girls to Christianity." The complaint was filed by local police whose charges the nuns denied. The MOC has become prominent for receiving global recognition for its humanitarian work that includes running hospices, clinics, and shelters for abandoned children in the last seven years.
The International Christian Concern reported on Thursday that the MOC is currrently "rationing aid to (the) poor after (the) government blocks foreign donations."