Compassion International is “weeks away from permanently withdrawing” from India, according to its testimony this week to a Congressional committee.
“What we’re experiencing is an unprecedented, highly coordinated, deliberate and systematic attack intended to drive us out,” the Christian charity’s lead attorney Stephen Oakley told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday.
Compassion began working in 1968 in India, where today its 580 Indian-staffed development centers care for more than 145,000 children. That’s about 8 percent of the 1.9 million children assisted by Compassion worldwide, but also more than any other of the 25 countries where it works.
“This is a huge turning point in Compassion’s history,” US communications director Tim Glenn told Mission Network News. “We’re looking at a clear 8 to 9 percent of our ministry possibly being shut down all at once.”
Compassion sends about $50 million per year in humanitarian aid to India. That makes it the “single largest contributor of aid for children living in extreme poverty” in India, said committee chairman Ed Royce.
Yet, he said, Compassion “could be shut down because of Indian government regulators” in mere weeks.
The restrictions started in 2011, when India changed its Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) so that it could regulate NGOs it disagrees with philosophically, according to the committee testimony. The move was seen by many as another step toward Hindu nationalism since 2014, when the country elected as its prime minister Narendra Modi—the only person once banned by the United States because of alleged religious freedom violations.
Then “in a secret order issued in February, India’s Ministry of Home Affairs [MHA] blocked Compassion from transferring funds to the development centers,” wrote Compassion president and CEO Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado for The Hill this week.
The Indian government did this by mandating that certain NGOs—including Compassion—receive approval prior to accepting foreign funds. “[But] after months of unsuccessfully trying to obtain prior clearance, we have concluded that the clearance process is fiction,” Compassaion stated on its website. “We have never been offered an explanation for this action in the nine months since the order was issued.”