For Christians trying to care for the poor in India, there is always a need for more prayer, more hands, and more money. Much of that money comes from donors in other countries. Recently, though, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has tightened regulations on foreign funding to nonprofits, including Christian groups that feed orphans, run hospitals, and educate children.
Since Modi took office in 2014, the Indian government has revoked permission for more than 16,000 nongovernmental organizations to receive foreign funding, using the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).
“It is deliberately an assault against the nonprofit sector,” said Vijayesh Lal, the general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, “and that includes the churches.”
In one recent round of revocations, six nonprofits lost the license allowing them to receive money from abroad. Four of those were Christian organizations. A search of the FCRA website reveals more than 450 revocations from 2011-2019 of groups with the word church in their name alone.
While the FCRA is not designed specifically to target Christian groups, experts say its cumbersome regulations have been used by the ruling parties in India to stifle political and religious dissidents since the law’s adoption in 1976.
“It has always been used as a tool,” Lal said. “The thought behind it is very clear. They don’t want to encourage dissent. They don’t want to encourage empowerment.”
The law was first passed in a period of Indian history called “the Emergency.” In the midst of economic crisis, suspicions of political corruption, strikes, student protests, and calls for revolution, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s government suspended civil liberties and centralized power. One new law allowed the government to check the flow of funds from outside the country.
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