India restores status of Mother Teresa charity after backlash

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  • Mother Teresa
    Mother Teresa
    Roman Catholic saint of Albanian origin
Christian nuns pray in front of a photograph of Mother Teresa as they observe the fifteenth anniversary of her death  (AFP via Getty)
Christian nuns pray in front of a photograph of Mother Teresa as they observe the fifteenth anniversary of her death (AFP via Getty)

India has restored the licence for Mother Teresa’s charity to receive foreign donations, after an initial decision to block its renewal around Christmas was met with an international backlash.

The Missionaries of Charity organisation was founded by Mother Teresa in 1950 in the Indian city of Kolkata to help the needy, and it currently operates nearly 250 homes for the destitute, orphans, and Aids patients in India.

All charities in India must have a licence to receive donations from abroad under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), a law that UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has accused the Modi government of abusing to “deter or punish NGOs”.

India’s home ministry previously said it had rejected the Missionaries of Charity licence renewal application after the government received unspecified “adverse inputs” about the charity’s work. Some Christian organisations in India have come under attack in recent months by right-wing Hindu nationalists, who have accused them of forcing people to convert to Christianity.

The decision was roundly criticised by rights groups and opposition parties, and was also debated in the UK parliament, where peers in the House of Lords sought to know what representations the British government had made to its Indian counterparts about the “blocking of overseas funds for the Missionaries of Charity and other non-governmental organisations”.

Key opposition leader and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee criticised the government for the alleged “freezing” of the charity’s bank accounts, although the home ministry denied it had done this and said the NGO had itself requested its accounts be frozen.

Derek O’Brien, a lawmaker from the opposition Trinamool Congress party, tweeted on Saturday that Missionaries of Charity was back on the home ministry’s list of approved organisations.

With the restoration of its FCRA licence, the charity can again receive foreign funding and can also spend the money in its bank accounts, a home ministry official was quoted as saying on Saturday.

The home ministry said that it had restored the FCRA licence after the NGO submitted unspecified additional documentation to the relevant department.

Mother Teresa, who won the Nobel Prize in 1979, was named a saint by the Vatican in 2016, 19 years after her death.

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