U.S. Lawmakers Put Pressure on India to Ease Funding Restrictions on Christian Group

A protester holds a placard during a rally in Mumbai, India by hundreds of Christians against attacks on churches nationwide.Reuters

Lawmakers from both the Republican and Democratic parties in the United States have united to call on the government of India to ease funding restrictions it imposed on a Christian organisation based only on an accusation that it is encouraging religious conversions.

According to a report by The Hindu, the foreign affairs committee of the U.S. House of Representatives held a public hearing to voice concerns on how the Indian government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has banned the Colorado-based Christian charity Compassion International (CI) from transferring funds to local civil society groups.

The Indian government imposed this ban last February, requiring the Christian group to obtain prior permission before it can extend financial support to local groups.

Republican Congressman Ed Royce, who chairs the committee, expressed dismay over the Indian government's supposed inaction to their repeated requests to lift the ban imposed on CI.

"This isn't a hearing that the committee expected to be holding," Royce said, as quoted by The Hindu. "For the past nine months, this committee has had meetings, written letters, made phone calls, and for that, I thank our members."

The lawmaker also maintained that the Christian group's supposed involvement in religious conversions is just a "rumour" and a "myth."

Democrat Congressman Eliot L. Engel, meanwhile, said during the hearing that this policy may affect civil society groups in India.

"It's troubling that a country with such a long tradition of an empowered and active civil society might be going down this path," Engel said, as quoted also by The Hindu.

Stephen Oakley, an official of the CI, for his part, told the congressional committee that the Christian organisation will be forced to stop its activities in India next month if the restrictions stay. The group supports 145,000 children in India through 580 partner organisations.

Oakley also said that CI is willing to work with the Indian government to resolve the issue. "If there are concerns regarding a particular partner, we will be willing to remove them from our network," he said.