Indian Christians Fear Plan Would Hurt Their Charity Works

Proposal Aims to Halt «Misuse» of Foreign Funds

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NEW DELHI, India, AUG. 3, 2001 (ZENIT.orgFides).- Christians fear that their educational and public welfare work in India may be stifled by a plan to enact new laws to prevent «misuse» of foreign funds.

The All Indian Christian Council, an ecumenical lay forum, has protested against the news that the federal government has decided to repeal the Foreign Contributions Act and replace it with a stringent law to prevent the free flow of foreign aid to Christian missionaries and nongovernmental organizations.

On July 25, the national newspaper The Hindu reported that the government is concerned that the funds from abroad are misused for religious conversions and proselytization and even to buy arms and ammunition.

The Foreign Contributions Act was introduced during the Indira Gandhi era to allow the nongovernmental organizations and Christian groups to receive funds from abroad for development and educational purposes.

The All India Christian Council said the existing law «is already being used as a weapon by the BJP government to target Christian groups and to stifle all protest.» The pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, is the ruling party.

Christians comprise about 2.4% of India´s 1 billion people. According to the Church´s Statistical Year Book of 1999, the Catholic Church in India teaches about 7 million pupils of all grades in 20,000 schools, and runs 14,524 welfare institutes.

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