India (MNN/CMP) — Today, Compassion’s Senior Vice President of General Counsel will testify on recent changes to the Indian government’s interpretation and application of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FRCA). Because of the changes, Compassion has not been allowed to send funds to its more than 500 local child development projects throughout the country. More than 145,000 children registered in Compassion’s program have been directly affected.
“The government is concerned that we are trying to change their culture,” shares Tim Glenn, who serves as U.S. Communications Director for Compassion. “They’re worried about the influence that we might have. But what you have to realize is that Compassion’s program works solely with local church partners in the countries where we serve. So we’re not there creating churches, we’re not there trying to create any kind of religion. We’re there working with churches that are already doing God’s work in that country. We’re just supporting them and providing them programs so they can do their work. I think that if people understood that, it would dramatically change their perception of Compassion. So this hearing that’s taking place today, our Senior Vice President of General Counsel will be testifying before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to explain what we really do in India. If we can have our politicians meet with their politicians to help them understand where Compassion is coming from and what our goals are for children in India, then I think we might be able to come to a solution – and that’s our hope.”
Earlier this year, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with key officials in India on behalf of Compassion. Still, Compassion has been unable to provide funds to continue its child development programs in the country.
The FCRA controls the way charitable organizations inside India can receive funds from foreign sources. The new rules required each of Compassion’s 580 child development centers to submit an application (Form FC-3) to the Indian government by October 31, 2016. Sixty-three of Compassion’s partners were denied FCRA approval. Despite repeated requests, the Indian government has not provided an explanation for these denials. Compassion made the difficult decision to end its partnership with those specific centers, impacting the lives of more than 14,000 Compassion children in India.
Compassion is currently unable to fund any of the remaining partners that did receive FCRA approval. Nor has the organization been able to provide funds to its two branch offices in India — again, with no government explanation. These decisions by the Indian government put Compassion in jeopardy of having to shut down all of its operations in India.
“This is a huge turning point in Compassion’s history,” reflects Glenn. “We’re looking at a clear eight to nine percent of our ministry possibly being shut down all at once. Part of it is misinformation, and part of it is a cultural battle. If you’re living in India, I can understand this fear of outside organizations trying to come in and change your culture. But that fear is based on a misunderstanding of what Compassion actually does. We’re in India, and we’ve been there since 1968. We’re not there to change culture; we’re there to lift children up from poverty. We’re there to feed them and to provide them opportunity for education and to teach them life skills so they become employable as adults. We’re bringing money into the economy through donors in the United States and around the world who are trying to help those children and lift them and their families out of poverty.”
In the last several months, Compassion has made repeated attempts to resolve the issue with the Indian government, but those attempts have been unsuccessful. The organization has asked its U.S.-based staff and over 500,000 of its supporters to write their congressperson, requesting their intervention in the matter. A pre-written letter for sponsors is available on Compassion’s web site.
Glenn asks that people pray earnestly for the hearing – and for the future of Compassion’s work in India. “We’re asking you to pray that our politicians will understand better what we do, and for them to be able to communicate that with their respective equals in India, so that the Indian government understands what we do better as well, and understand that the positive impact that we have goes beyond just that of the child – it impacts their family, it impacts their community, it impacts that nation with millions of dollars that come into India every year through Compassion to support, feed, educate, clothe, and teach children.”
“Since the start of its humanitarian work in India in 1968, more than a quarter-million Indian children and their families have benefited from Compassion’s programs,” says Compassion President and CEO, Santiago Jimmy Mellado, “We want nothing more than to comply with Indian law and find favor in the eyes of those with the power to authorize our ongoing care to these children who are suffering in extreme poverty.”