International charity Compassion International had to end its child sponsorship programmes in India on 15 March despite serving more than 280,000 children and their families over 48 years in the country.
The programmes included the provision of meals, medical care, and tuition payments.
Compassion’s problems started after it was put on a government watch list and accused of engaging in religious activity.
The Indian government claimed that two affiliates of Compassion had been trying to convert children.
The Ministry of Home Affairs blocked the charity from sending money from overseas to its two local offices and 589 church partners in the country.
A Ministry of External Affairs official said that Compassion declined a government offer to re-register as a religious organisation, which would have allowed it to continue its work in India.
Income tax officials began raiding Compassion’s offices from 2015, apparently looking for evidence that funds were being used to convert Indian families.
Sam Jebagnanam, a field officer based in Chennai, described the searches as “harrowing”, with staff members questioned through the night and stopped from leaving the premises, calling for legal aid, or ordering food.
Priya Saxena, 13, is one child affected by the decision. In the past four years, through a community centre funded by Compassion, she has learnt to speak and write English, received vaccinations for typhoid, and eaten regular high-protein meals, despite her vegetable-vendor father earning about 1000 rupees (US$16) a month.
“Now I do not know what the future holds for me,” she said. “I hoped to become a doctor. But now that we are told we will no longer have sponsors to see us through the education, I don’t know what will happen.”
She added, “This place taught me to have a life. It is finished now.”
Compassion hopes that it can one day resume working in India by serving the holistic needs of children living in extreme poverty there.
Over the past two years, more than 11,000 non-governmental organisations have lost their licences to accept foreign funds amid a crackdown by the government of Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party.
Hindu nationalists have put increasing pressure on Christians in India since the election of Prime Minister Modi in 2014.
The subcontinent has been steadily moving up the Open Doors list of places where it is hardest to be a Christian, from number 28 in 2014 to number 15 this year, the highest rank it has ever held.
HOME GROUP PRAYER
“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
If anyone causes one of these little ones — those who believe in me — to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea,”” Matthew 18:1–6 NIV.
Dear Heavenly Father,
LORD of mercy and grace, we lift up the numerous families and children who have been deprived of their basic means of survival and are suffering from poverty daily due to lack of meals, medical provisions, and payment for tuition of the children.
We pray earnestly for doors to re-open and a new vision to be given to the international charities, such as Compassion International, which have served faithfully in India by offering assistance to children and helpless families.
We would like to pray for your child, Priya Saxena, and other sponsored children who have been suffering since the crackdown affecting the work of non-governmental organisations in India.
LORD, although the situation looks grim at the moment, we know that our hope does not rest in earthly circumstances but in Christ alone.
By faith, we trust that you can and will turn ashes to beauty.
May your goodness and great plan shine through all of this and your Kingdom be strengthened and established in India.
LORD, we proclaim that although Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again!
In Christ’s most holy Name we pray. Amen!
Materials used by kind permission of the original author.