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Should we ban foreign funding of religious institutions?

This post was triggered by Sanjeev’s remarks on one of the FTI forums*.  In his note, Sanjeev wrote (emphasis mine):

I believe that India must ban all foreign funding of religious organisations.

Religion is as powerful (or more) than political parties, and if political parties can’t get foreign funding under FRCA (which they should not) so should religious organisations be prohibited from receiving foreign funds. That would stem the flow of the crores of rupees that is being pumped into madrassas and missionary work.

…The more I think about it, it appears to me that instead of taking the route of direct invasion, Islam and Christianity are now taking the easy route of foreign funding to change the essential character of India.

A free society cannot have any problems with conversions (we have discussed this in the past), and Vivekananda confirmed that view (as I’ve outlined in DOF).

However, the free society must protect its fundamental character. This method – of foreign funds being used to change the character of India – is in conflict with India’s sovereignty.

The character of a society matters. For instance, we can hardly doubt that most Islamic societies today are radically illiberal (even though, as I outline in DOF, Islam actually helped save the Greek pagan literature from dying out, and initially was compatible with liberal democracy). Surely we don’t want India to become an Afghanistan or Iran. The way to stop this large scale silent invasion of India is to block funding from abroad.

indigenous Muslims and Christians in India should be free to practice/preach/convert, etc. Like any other – e.g. Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu, etc. But not by using foreign funds. That is poison. It gives an under-hand advantage to certain religions which are benefiting temporarily from economic power (whether Western or oil based power in the middle-East). Using foreign funds to save people’s souls means that their loyalties shift outside India at some level. How can one accept a foreigner’s money and still retain independence?

Just like political funding from abroad destroys India’s sovereignty and so is prohibited, so also religious funding from abroad destroys India’s fundamental character as a nation and attacks India’s roots. It should be banned. Such bans should also apply to funds coming from abroad to fund fanatic Hindu activities. VHP, for instance, has benefited enormously from funds from Indians settled abroad. That has not always been put to good use.

I had previously read several critiques of foreign funding of religious organisations in India. But Sanjeev’s remarks were notable for their lucidity and the thrust of the argument i.e. foreign religious funding is altering the fundamental character of India because of the accompanying conversions and propagation of illiberal ideologies.

Christian Missionaries

I held off from immediately posting these remarks since I wanted to add some more data and analysis around this. I also wanted some sense of the amounts that might be flowing in – as part of the covert and overt conversion agenda. Although this matter had previously been discussed under the “Conversions” category of posts on this blog, I had never written anything focused on foreign funding. This post is an attempt to fill the gap.

First, some excerpts from Sanjeev Nayyar’s research which includes figures on the extent of foreign funding.  In his report, Sanjeev identified the following key points:

Between 1993-94 and 2006-07 a sum of Rs 64,670 crs was received as “Foreign Contributions” by organizations registered with the Home Ministry Govt of India and who filed their declarations.

Between 1993-94 to 2006-07 the total funds received went up from Rs 1865 to 12290 crs i.e. an increase of 650%

The % of Associations submitting details of foreign contributions however fell from 66% in 1997-98 to 56% in 2006-07 – meaning that the actual amount of foreign contributions received is much higher than what has been reported.

…Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra are top receivers of foreign contributions.

Tamil Nadu receipts jumped from Rs 775 crs in 2002-03 to Rs 2244 crs in 2006-07, nearly a 200% increase.  Many districts of Tamil Nadu received over Rs 100 crs each in 2006-07.

One of the top recipients in Tamil Nadu during 2006-7 was an NGO called “World Vision“. This is the same organisation one of whose employees is suspected of being involved in the murder of Swami Laxmanananda in Kandhamal. World Vision is a Seattle-based Christian organization with strong evangelical roots. It is also the largest U.S.-based international relief and development organization whose budget has roughly tripled over the last decade.  It boasts of around 40,000 staff members in nearly 100 countries. That’s more staff members than CARE, Save the Children and the worldwide operations of the United States Agency for International Development — combined.

The vast amounts that are being funnelled to such NGOs are not only very likely being misused for changing religious demographics, they are also subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) “altering the character and content of public spaces“. As Smt Radha Rajan wrote:

Chennai, the capital of TN is witnessing the obscene flaunting of Muslim and Christian symbols in public spaces, completely disproportionate to their actual numbers. This flaunting of symbols has been enabled by the astronomical amounts of money pouring into the country from Christian and Muslim countries.

Exaggerated? Not quite. As Prof R Vaidyanathan notes in his analysis of foreign funds in India:

The interesting information is regarding the purpose of the donations (see Table-2). Establishment expenses top the list

Establishment expenses consist of buying land, buildings, jeeps, setting up fancy offices, mobiles, laptops, expensive cameras, salaries, consultancy fees, honorarium, and importantly, foreign travel etc, which make up 35-70% of the expenses.

This massive inflow of funds and aggressive proselytization is not just causing conflict and creating strains within local communities – for example, in Kandhamal and elsewhere (see: Christian Aggresion in Cauvery Layout), more worryingly, it is creating a cadre of rigid, intolerant and fanatic converts (e.g. read this post about “Kids in Ministry“).

Of course, such a wave of funding, aggressive preaching and “brainwashing” is hardly limited to Churches and Christian denominations.

In Part II: Petro Dollars, Wahhabism and India’s waning liberal ethos. Watch this space.

Thoughts, comments and views welcome – in particular on the question I raised in the title of the post: “Should we ban foreign funding of religious institutions?”

* The initial remarks have been reproduced with Sanjeev’s permission.

Related Posts:

On Religious Freedoms and Secularism

Thou shalt go out and convert

A glimpse into “Church-planting” in AP

Image from: http://www.joelhitchcock.com/JoelHitchcockRevivalInternational.htm

March 31st, 2010 Posted by | A Hindu Identity, An Indian Identity, Conversions, Missionaries in India, Debates & Discussions, Politics and Governance in India | 102 comments

102 Comments »

  1. Dear Shantanu-ji,
    Wanted to bring this two parts story to your kind attention:

    http://www.indiafacts.co.in/indiafacts-investigation-many-faces-mission-india-part

    and

    http://www.indiafacts.co.in/mission-india-many-faces-one-intent-part-ii

    Regards

    Comment by sighbaboo (@sighbaboo) | October 19, 2014

  2. Adding this link here for the record: HOW FOREIGN EVANGELICAL ORGANIZATIONS SET THE AGENDA OF FCRA-RECEIVING INDIAN NGOS by SHIVA KUMARAN, NOVEMBER 8, 2014

    Comment by B Shantanu | November 8, 2014

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