World Vision Told to Leave Pakistan After 13 Years

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Pakistan has told 18 international organizations, including the Christian charity World Vision, to pack up and leave. Their departure will affect millions in poor communities across the country, the sixth most populous in the world.

Church leaders—who represent a small Christian minority in the Islamic Republic (1.5% of 210 million people)—support regulations for non-governmental organizations but want groups backed by national churches to be allowed to continue operating legally.

World Vision served more than a decade in Pakistan before the country formally joined its Asian neighbors like India, Russia, and China in restricting international involvement, claiming security concerns. In the midst of a struggling democracy and sagging economy, most Pakistanis prefer to seek aid from China and Saudi Arabia rather than Western countries.

A year ago, 27 international organizations were given expulsion orders, but 18 groups, including World Vision, continued operating while they appealed the decision. The Interior Ministry stated the organizations had violated their mandates to work in the country. Last month, a senate human rights committee pushed for more detail, requesting officials “inform international non-government organisations (INGO) the reasons why they could not be registered.”

After the government gave its final notice, November 30 was the last working day for the 18 organizations, which come from the US, UK, and elsewhere in Europe.

Pakistan Humanitarian Forum, an umbrella representing most of the charities, says that the evictions will affect 11 million people and represent $130 million in assistance. In addition to World Vision, two other ousted charities were also faith-based, Catholic Relief and Trócaire, a development ministry out of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

“We complied with the 60-day deadline given to wind up our work with children, families and communities in the country,” said an official statement from World Vision. “We worked with Pakistan government institutions to hand over responsibility for life-saving and poverty-reducing programs.”

World Vision began its operation in Pakistan in 2005, focused on emergency relief and development. Over the past few years, the group expanded its programs and “aimed to provide about 800,000 children and youth, directly and indirectly, with access to education, protection, sustainable income generation, health care, food, and better care within their homes and communities.”

The Christian humanitarian organization, which had 31 staff based in the country, struggled for two years to formally register and went through a nine-month appeals process. Their efforts were funded by a multi-country grant from Canada focused on health and a US grant focused on community-building.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today, Asif Aqeel