missionories of charity

It has been happening with frightening regularity all over India and particularly, in states run by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP): the bashing of Christians! It is a well-orchestrated campaign to denigrate and demonise the Christians. Their design is devious: a method in their ‘madness’! The divisive agenda is clearly to polarise sections of the majority community against the Christians. The bogey of so-called ‘conversions’ is always raised creating unfounded ‘fears’ that the population of Christians is increasing in the country whereas official Government statistics clearly show a decline in numbers!

The long-term strategy is clear: To attack the minorities and in several cases, notch up electoral gains! There is enough evidence to prove this whether it be in Gujarat in the past or recently in Tripura! Besides campaigning with bogeys and myths – the agenda has paved way for a national anti-Conversion law! Ultimately, the ushering of a nation-state is based on the ‘Hindutva’ ideology!

Christians are being persecuted, their institutions are attacked, Christian literature is burnt, undemocratic demands are made on the Christians, false charges framed, anti-Conversion laws are made weapons to intimidate and harass. Reports on these emerge on a daily basis and they do not seem to stop such terrorist activities! Above all, those who are responsible for these heinous crimes do so with impunity and are apparently guaranteed impunity by the bosses and their ilk!

The latest attack is on the Missionaries of Charity (founded by Mother Teresa) in Vadodara when on 13 December the Gujarat Police registered an FIR against them (the Missionaries of Charity who run the Ashram), for allegedly “luring young girls into Christianity and hurting Hindu religious sentiments.”. This is an allegation that is totally false and fabricated.

The sequence of events is as follows:

– On 29 August 2021, Mr Priyank Kanoongo the Chairman of the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) paid a “surprise” visit to the Ashram and apparently finds a couple of Bibles with the name of a child written on them
– He directs the District Administration and police to take action; they do visit the Ashram later and in fact they find nothing wrong. In fact, they had all appreciation for the work of the sisters
– On 9 December the District Social Defence Officer with the Chairman of the CWC visited the premises during which they ‘apparently’ found some serious issues!
– This visit took place because there was plenty of pressure from ‘above’
– An FIR was then filed; the sisters came to know about it from the media
– On 13 December 2021 around 7.00pm – a team consisting of an Asst. Commissioner of Police, the P.I. of Makarpura, a Social Welfare Officer from the CWC and a lady constable visited the premises till 11.00pm for ‘investigations’
– On 14 December, another team of police came to the Ashram to interrogate the five girls whose names were written on the Bibles – no MC Sister or lawyer/representative (on behalf of the Sisters) was allowed to be present. The interrogation went on for more than four hours.

The complaint was finally filed by the District Social Defence Officer Mayank Trivedi. During his visit Trivedi ‘apparently’ found girls being forced to read Christian religious texts at the shelter and that similar activities were conducted with the intention of “steering them into Christianity.” The Missionaries of Charity have been booked under sections 295 A (deliberate and malicious acts to outrage feelings of any class by insulting its religious beliefs) and 298 (deliberately uttering words to wound the religious feelings of a person) of the Indian Penal Code. The FIR also invokes sections of the ‘Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003’, including those providing for prohibition of forcible conversion and punishment for it.

The FIR states, “between February 10, 2021, and December 9, 2021, the institution has been involved in activities to hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus intentionally and with bitterness… The girls inside the Home for Girls are being lured to adopt Christianity by making them wear the cross around their neck and also placing the Bible on the table of the storeroom used by the girls, in order to compel them to read the Bible… It is an attempted crime to force religious conversion upon the girls”

The Missionaries of Charity vehemently deny these false allegations saying that the twenty-four girls living in the Ashram and under their care, are very well looked after. No one is forced to do anything- if the girls want to, they are free to pray in any way they wish; besides no one is converted or forced to marry a Christian.
The calculated attempts to dismantle the tremendous work done by the Missionaries of Charity for the poorest of the poor, the unloved and rejected, the orphans and widows- needs to be condemned unequivocally and strongly by all enlightened citizens who not only value the great legacy Mother Teresa who has left us, but also admire the work done by her Sisters today!

All efforts to tarnish the name of the Missionaries of Charity, will besides hurting their tremendous work will greatly affect the thousands of the poorest of the poor, dying destitute, abandoned, rejected and others (irrespective of caste or creed) who are so lovingly cared for day and night – without counting the cost!

Time has come to call for an immediate halt to the persecution of the Missionaries of Charity and all Christians in different parts of the country. It is high time to wake up from our slumber in India before it is too late!

(Fr Cedric Prakash SJ is a human rights, reconciliation and peace activist/writer. Contact: email: cedricprakash@gmail.com )


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