A woman hides her face outside a court in Ranchi in India's Jharkhand state on July 5. A nun and a staff member at a Missionaries of Charity home were due to appear at the court accused of selling babies born to unwed mothers. Concerns are growing about harassment of Christians in Jharkhand. (Photo by AFP)
A Catholic leader has sought Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intervention to stop harassment of Christians after Jharkhand state ordered a probe into the funding of more than 80 Christian organizations.
The eastern state on July 19 asked police to probe foreign donations received by non-governmental organizations managed by dioceses and religious congregations such as Jesuits, Salesians and several groups of nuns, accusing them of diverting the money for religious conversion.
"This is another sign of how the Jharkhand government is harassing Christian institutions," Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, told ucanews.com.
"We appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to keep the state government under control. We hope that the prime minister will intervene and stop this harassment."
Modi's pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party, which has run Jharkhand's government since 2014, has been accused of moving against the Christian community, with police arresting nuns, priests and lay Christians on trumped-up charges.
Investigations have been ordered into the work of Missionaries of Charity, the congregation St. Teresa of Kolkata founded, after a nun was recently arrested and accused of selling babies for adoption.
Bishop Mascarenhas said the inquiries are unfair as the state and federal governments have financial details of all these organizations because overseas funds come through designated banks and accounts are compiled annually to comply with government regulations.
"If the government wants to be fair, let it start probing all non-governmental organizations. Why single out Christians?" he asked.
The bishop said Christian groups are working for the welfare of the poor, educating them and taking care of their health needs. "Instead of working for the poor, the government is targeting those working for the poor," he said.
Jharkhand has set up special teams in all 24 districts to probe more than 80 Christian organizations, Hindi newspaper Prabhat Kabar (morning news) reported on July 20.
The organizations include Catholic dioceses such as Ranchi and Gumla, the Salesians of Don Bosco, Jesuits, the Congregation of Ursuline Sisters and a Lutheran Church organization among others.
"We are not afraid of any probe," Father Cyprian Kullu, vicar general of Gumla Diocese, told ucanews.com. He said foreign donations come with the full knowledge of the federal home ministry and "every pie is accounted for. The poor are going to suffer from this attitude of the government."
"Christians are targeted because of empowering the poor. The tribal and Dalit people, who are educated and aware of the issues, now stand up and speak for their rights, so the government wants to suppress us," Father Kullu said.
Jesuit Father Joseph Marianus Kujur of Ranchi told ucanews.com that only Christian organizations are being targeted. If the government is fair, it should investigate other organizations that receive foreign funds, he said.
Jharkhand has about 9 million tribal people in its population of 33 million, while half of its 1.5 million Christians are Catholics.
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