March 28, 2017
Wilberforce A!ert: India’s Nationalism Hurts its Most Vulnerable: Compassion International is Out
Compassion International (CI), a Christian humanitarian aid organization, has been forced to shut down its benevolent work among 145,000 of some of India’s poorest children. CI sends about $45 million annually in support of 580 Indian-staffed development centers that provide food, medicine, clothing, school fees and related humanitarian aid to support children and youth living in extreme poverty. But the Indian government has blocked CI funds from reaching its centers.
In a statement regarding the shutdown on its website, CI said:
“In the past two years, the Indian government has contested a range of charities, both religious and nonreligious, which the government perceives as a threat. This list includes Greenpeace, the Ford Foundation, Amnesty International and a variety of others, large and small. We are not aware of a plan or provision to meet the unmet needs that India will now face on its own, especially for the very poor.”
According to the Times of India, the official explanation for the shutdown is that Compassion’s activities are “not conducive to national interest.” The national interest appears to be an effort to strengthen the Hindu identity of the Indian people.
Other nations also have blasphemy laws and regulations against religious proselytizing to protect their heritage, thus allowing restrictive governments more tools to control citizens’ expression of thoughts and beliefs.
There is much about nationalism that is commendable. For example, in the U.S., I believe every student in our schools should be required to study American history. We should value our heritage. Who are our founders and what were their motivations for the Constitution? What were the values that gave birth to our system of government?
Yet understanding our origin should also coincide with accepting that the world has changed. We are no longer 13 colonies from predominately Christian and Jewish heritage. Our founders and framers longed to create a country where freedom of conscience was guaranteed. A century before the U.S. Constitution was ratified, the Baptist theologian Roger Williams argued for the freedom of conscience for “Papists, Protestants, Jews, or Turks.” He declared they should not be “restrained from their own particular prayers or worship, if they practice any.”
What is the solution to the challenge of multi-ethnicity and pluralism? Should the U.S. follow the example of these recent moves in India and other nations who close their doors to ideologies that diverge from each country’s heritage? Or should the U.S. attempt to create a nationalism that respects the beliefs and values of others, protects freedom of religion and speech while at the same time urging civility, compassion and kindness?
Why is India afraid of $45 million in assistance to children living in extreme poverty? Why are North Korea and Saudi Arabia afraid that someone will distribute a Bible in their country? Why do Muslims burn churches in Northern Nigeria? Why are Christians in the U.S. opposed to having mosques in their neighborhoods? If we have confidence in the truth of our worldviews, we should welcome environments that encourage the exchange of ideas.
Authentic faith cannot be coerced. Healthy nationalism promotes religious freedom, not the opposite. Unfortunately for India, its most vulnerable will feel the brunt of the government’s nationalist desires.
- Read Compassion International’s announcement about the decision to close operations, where you can find more information as well as follow a link to write to your members of Congress about this travesty.
- Pray for the poor children of India whose lives have been impacted because Compassion International has been forced to close operations there.