She devoted her life to those who nobody else was willing to help, won the Nobel Peace Prize, and 19 years after her death, she was declared a saint by the Vatican. But Mother Teresa’s organisation, the Missionaries of Charity, now finds itself stranded after the government acted against it on Saturday, which was Christmas.
The Home Ministry rejected the request from the charity to receive funds from donors abroad. To use these funds, non-profits need clearance under the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA), but Mother Teresa’s charity says their request to renew this ‘license’ was rejected.
“Therefore, as a measure to ensure there is no lapse, we have asked our centres not to operate any of the FC (Foreign Contributions) accounts until the matter is resolved,” it said in a statement issued today.
The Home Ministry clarified that it had not frozen the bank accounts of the Missionaries of Charity, claiming, “State Bank of India has informed that Missionaries of Charity itself sent a request to SBI to freeze its accounts.”
The government also acknowledged that it had not renewed the FCRA eligibility of the Missionaries of Charity, citing “adverse inputs” that surfaced when it was considering the application.
This afternoon, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted that the government had frozen the bank accounts of the Missionaries of Charity, which is headquartered in Kolkata, where it shelters the poorest of the poor.
“Shocked to hear that on Christmas, Union Ministry FROZE ALL BANK ACCOUNTS of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity! 22,000 patients and employees have been left without food and medicines. While the law is paramount, humanitarian efforts must not be compromised,” she tweeted.
Father Dominic Gomes, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Calcutta, also hit out at what he said was a “dastardly attack on the Christian community”.
“In freezing the bank accounts of Missionaries of Charity… government agencies have given a cruel Christmas gift to the poorest of the poor… Missionaries of Charity Sisters and Brothers are often the only friends of lepers and social outcasts no one will even venture near… this latest attack on the Christian community and their social outreach is even more a dastardly attack on the poorest of India’s poor. We condemn the government action,” the Father’s statement said.
Refusing FCRA clearance has been listed by critics of the government as its way of suppressing organisations whose work or officials are not considered supportive enough of the centre.
Earlier this month, news agency AFP said that the police in Gujarat were investigating if the Missionaries of Charity had forced girls in a shelter home there to wear a cross and read the Bible.
The Missionaries of Charity, founded in 1950 by the late Mother Teresa – a Roman Catholic nun who lived and worked in Kolkata for most of her life and won the Nobel Peace Prize – denied all charges.
On the charges of ‘conversion’, Father Gomes said it “boggles the mind” and pointed out that if Christian organisations were intent on conversion “there would be many more Christians in the 2000 years Christianity has been on Indian soil than the 2.3% minority today”.
Mother Teresa died in September 1997. She was accorded a state funeral for her service to the poor, irrespective of caste and creed. In September 2016 she was elevated to sainthood by Pope Francis.