India(MNN) — India’s Foreign Contributions Regulation Bill could seriously hinder the work of 20,000 development service groups, half of which are Christian. The amendment would enable authorities to revoke registration at any time.
More specifically, the law would obligate service organizations that receive foreign funding to re-register every five years. The amendment expands authorities’ power to
revoke registration, and that could prove crippling to some organizations.
Hopegivers International, for instance. On February 20, 2006, the state government in
Rajasthan seized Hopegivers bank accounts and operating licenses for their hospital, orphanage and schools. Everything was finally restored in August, but the battle to recover is just beginning.
There are concerns that this case will not be unique. Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India’s vice president agrees. “Part of the motivation for this bill, besides trying to restrict funding for terrorist organizations, is to stop funding coming into the country that serves Christian ministry and organizations. Some believe that it could have a devastating impact on Christian work in India today.”
The amendment discourages long-term projects. Many groups may be discouraged from establishing long-term projects such as school and hospitals, since approval for foreign
funding for these projects could be revoked after, or even before, the
five-year period expired.
While protest is mounting, the government steadfastly maintains the amendment is needed to keep a check on militant and separatist organizations that raise funds abroad for “anti-national” activities. In a nation where one of the primary political parties seeks to be an all Hindu nation, anti-national targets Christians.
The vice president urges prayer. “We don’t know how long that the window will remain open. Lord willing, it can remain open for many more years to come, but there are very powerful groups at work. There’s legislation at work to stifle this effort and part of the reason groups are very active in trying to slow the spread of the Gospel down is because the people of India are very responsive.”
Prayer is needed. Outspoken Christian groups plan to take up the issue with a parliamentary committee soon. They’re hoping to lay out their arguments before the bill is introduced to Parliament at the end of February.