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Caritas India meets to discuss funding challenges

The social service wing of the church wants India’s burgeoning business sector to help out

ucanews.com reporter, Bengaluru

ucanews.com reporter, Bengaluru

Published: July 27, 2016 10:38 AM GMT

Updated: July 28, 2016 05:19 AM GMT

Caritas India meets to discuss funding challenges

Participants at the diocesan directors meeting of Caritas India react to a question during a discussion on increasing funding for church projects. (Photo by Amrit Sagma)

Caritas India has started seeking corporate collaboration as part of an attempt to generate local funds because donations from Europe are shrinking.

Heads of 180 partner organizations met in Bengaluru July 20-21 to explore models of partnership with the corporations, NGOs and the general public.

It is not merely about money, explained Joseph Sebastian, head of Faizal and Shabana Foundation, the philanthropic arm of a Singapore-based business firm. "It's about necessary work that needs doing," said Sebastian.

Traditional European donors now see India as a land of large corporations and an emerging world economy that is home to rich business people.

They wonder why India cannot generate its own funds, said Father Varghese Mattamana, former director of Caritas India.

Caritas India began developing business partnerships last October and now have relationships with leading firms like Coca-Cola and Rolls-Royce India, according to Amrit Sagma, public relations officer for Caritas.

In some cases, corporate houses share half the expense of a project alongside the church organization, while in others they contribute the money and Caritas volunteers execute the projects, Sagma explained.

Participants at the meeting also examined other models of partnership such as the more than 40-year old "Rice Bowl" Lenten faith formation program of the Catholic Relief Services, the social service arm of the U.S. Catholic bishops conference.*

The push for new resources has been on the cards ever since it became difficult to mobilize money in Europe because of recessions, unemployment and policy changes. Moreover, the intensity of poverty in Africa is more pressing than in India, forcing agencies to fund African projects, according to Father Mattamana.*

Caritas Director Father Frederick D'Souza said there are plenty of opportunities to raise funds locally.

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"But we need to fine-tune our strategies and the process of our operations," said Father D'Souza.

Auxiliary Bishop Raphael Thattil of Trichur Archdiocese suggested imposing a tax on the church's numerous educational and health institutions that are apparently generating income beyond their expenses.

Several participants said the bishop's suggestion would fail because what is a luxury for some, maybe necessary by others.

Some diocesan directors told ucanews.com that most income-generating educational institutions are run by religious congregations and they would not speak openly about their income, making it impossible to impose a tax.

"The need to generate more resources is real," Father Mattamana told ucanews.com. "What we need is to create models and concepts of development that business houses and even government agencies can buy into."

*This paragraph has been corrected and updated.

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