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Monday, January 24, 2022

Why are Missionaries of Charity nuns being stopped from doing their work?

Julio Ribeiro writes: Without foreign funds, the nuns will have to abandon the poor. Hindutva brigade can take up their work.

Written by Julio Ribeiro |
Updated: January 8, 2022 10:23:04 am
A centre run by them in Gujarat for destitute girls was visited by the government’s minions.

Now that the Ministry of Home Affairs has finally decided to cut off foreign funding to Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, this international order of nuns will have to stop its care of the poorest of the poor. What was surprising is that it took the government more time than expected to concoct a plausible story to justify its action. A couple of the accused in the Bhima Koregaon case say it took a couple of years to fix their computers in order to rope them in. It should have been much, much easier to foist false cases on unsuspecting Catholic nuns whose only mission in life is to spread love and compassion and whose knowledge of worldly affairs is confined to their work for the poorest of the poor.

A centre run by them in Gujarat for destitute girls was visited by the government’s minions. They found the girls “being indoctrinated in Christian beliefs and forced to attend Christian prayer services”. These are charges that could have been made much earlier if they were based on truth. But since they are obviously not true, it was only around Christmas Day of 2021 that the revelations were announced.

A concerted attack on Christian schools and places of worship in the states ruled by the BJP has been mounted in the past two or three months. Is it to intimidate them to vote for the ruling dispensation? I doubt it. Christians can make some small difference in a small state like Goa but surely not in Uttar Pradesh or even in Punjab or Uttarakhand.

So what is it that is getting the Sangh Parivar all agog with excitement all of a sudden? Honestly, I cannot figure it out. If it is “conversions”, that is an old horse that has been flogged almost to death. The cognoscente knows well that there are no “forced” conversions. That is out of the question in today’s day and age, especially under today’s political dispensation. Even when “Soft Hindutva” ruled, it would not have been tolerated.

Mass conversions would attract attention and consternation. That, too, is not happening. The last mass conversions that were reported were of Scheduled Caste Hindus to Buddhism. That was some decades ago in Maharashtra, home to their icon, Babasaheb Ambedkar.

The only plausible explanation I can offer is the Sangh Parivar’s drumming up of pure prejudices against a small community that has nowhere to go when threatened or bullied. The “Christian” countries are not going to accept them, as religion is not an emotive issue with them like it is in South Asia or in the Islamic nations of the Middle East or Southeast Asia. Muslims, who constituted the first and the main target of the forces of Hindutva, were advised to go to Pakistan. Which country will be assigned to the poor Christians?

If BJP MP Tejasvi Surya had his way, the Christians would not be required to leave. A better solution hath he in a statement he later withdrew. They would have to revert to the religion of their forefathers by undergoing the purifying ceremonies of “ghar wapsi”. Hinduism has never existed without the allotted castes. What caste would be assigned to the prodigals? I suppose Surya would decide that delicate issue also.

But let us revert to the government’s refusal to renew the FCRA licence of the revered Mother’s Missionaries of Charity. Without foreign aid, the nuns will have to abandon the poorest of the poor to an uncertain fate. Unless, of course, the Hindutva brigade’s softer side steps in and takes up the work from the Sisters. The love and compassion that guides those good women may go missing but at the very least the destitute will escape death by starvation. And that would be the least we should expect from these soldiers of the “New India”. At present, the only job entrusted to them is the lynching of Muslim “beef traders” and violence against Christian “proselytisers”. Let them get accustomed to busying themselves with positive work, simultaneously.

The other aspect of this sad affair that should bother us is the habit the Modi-Shah government has formed of twisting facts to suit its ideological agenda. In the case of Mother Teresa’s order of nuns, I am witness to the fact that the Mother made it an article of faith to ensure that parents who were accepted as guardians or foster parents were of the same religious denomination as the child who was put up for adoption. In Romania, where I witnessed the process, the Orthodox Christians, who were the dominant faction in the land, would not have countenanced orphans being assigned to Catholic foster parents of more affluent countries.

I have mentioned in earlier writings that Mother Teresa inaugurated the re-opening of a mosque in Albania at the request of a group of Muslim boys who approached her. She justified her consent to do that by telling me that it gladdened her heart to see a return to god in that atheist country in which her parents were born and lie buried. The country was 70 per cent Muslim before the Communist dictator Enver Hoxha declared it to be officially atheist and closed all mosques and churches for public worship.

In any case, the main objects of Mother’s attention, and hence her followers as well, were abandoned babies and the old and feeble men and women left by an indifferent society to fend for themselves on the street in their dying hours. Even if Mother wanted to convert them where was the scope? Allegations of Christian prayers recited at the time of their death, even if true, do not make these poor souls into Christians. That process is time-consuming since the converts have to assimilate Christian beliefs and values and this takes at least a year or so to accomplish.

This column first appeared in the print edition on January 4, 2022 under the title ‘In bad faith’. The writer, a retired IPS officer, was Mumbai police commissioner, and a former Indian ambassador to Romania

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