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One faith-based programme that Bush goes gaga about is the prison-based InnerChange Freedom Initiative started by Charles Colson. Incidentally, Colson was one of the characters from the Watergate episode; he spent seven months in prison for obstructing justice in a one of the Watergate cases. "InnerChange is an intensive Bible-centered program, ostensibly open to inmates of all religious persuasions, but every month inmates are evaluated on whether they "demonstrate a belief in Jesus Christ," wrote Robyn E Blumner, perspective columnist of the St Petersburg Times, on September 28, 2003. "Those inmates who fail to show the proper level of piety are removed and lose the special freedoms and privileges dangled before inmates as incentives to participate," he added. Bush introduced InnerChange into the Texas prison system when he was governor. At present it operates in four states and the Bush government subsidises its conversion activities with the American tax-payers' money.

What underlies all this is that the Bush administration's conservative evangelical worldview has proliferated to countries like India. Here the Church and Christian NGOs have been involved for a long time in the provision of voluntary social service. But churches and Christian NGOs in India and the trans-national (read American) faith-based NGOs who have a large presence in India have gleefully responded to the message emanating from the White House. Bush's support for religious conversion has happened on the persuasive power of the dollar. It is safe to say that almost all evangelical organisations in India and non-Catholic churches and the Christian NGOs get their funding from their American patrons or from USAID. These groups, like CARE or World Vision tend to Christian social workers and consciously infuse Christian religiosity as part of the help they provide to socially and economically marginalised communities.

Holistic development tactics

World Vision, the world's largest Christian church mission agency, has traditionally been closely linked with successive American governments. The former US Ambassador for International Religious Freedoms, Dr Robert Seiple, was WV chief for 11 years till 1998 when he was picked by former president, Bill Clinton, to head the office of International Religious Freedoms. Around the period when Seiple was the president of WV, its vice-president from 1993 to 1998 was Andrew S. Natsios. He is now the administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID). For more than 40 years, USAID has been the leading government agency providing economic and humanitarian assistance to developing countries.

WV's focus is children and community development. It is involved in more than 162 projects in 25 states. It projects its community development programmes as "holistic development". This is implemented through Area Development Programmes (ADP). Each ADP works in an area that is contiguous geographically, economically or ethnically. These programmes provide access to clean drinking water, healthcare, education and setting up of income generating projects. But infused with such development works is the spiritual component-Bible classes.

In India, WV projects itself as a "Christian relief and development agency with more than 40 years experience in working with the poorest of the poor in India without respect to race, region, religion, gender or caste." However, Tehelka has in its possession US-based WV Inc.'s financial statement filed before the Internal Revenue Service, wherein, it is classified as a Church ministry. In any case, its mission statement is self-explanatory: "World Vision is an international partnership of Christians whose mission is to follow our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, in working with the poor and oppressed, to promote human transformation, seek justice and bear witness to the Good News of the Kingdom of God."

Though, WV, has consultative status with UNESCO and partnerships with UN agencies like UNICEF, WHO, UNHCR and ILO, the fact is that its financial records reveal that it has funded evangelical activities all over the world, including India. WV uses its international clout and its close links with the US government through USAID to network with governments and corporate entities in the developing world.

WV has an ongoing channel of interaction with the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII); its 2003 financial report it states that "the Rural Development Department of the Government of Assam recognised WV India as a leading development agency in the state and has recommended that WV be the choice for receiving bilateral funds. The government has also sought WV's assistance in creating a proposal for US$ 80 million for development work in the state."

The income and expenditure account for the year ended September 30, 2002 shows that its total income was Rs 95.5 crores, which included foreign contribution of Rs 87.8 crores. For an organisation that claims to be only involved in development and relief work, it is quite stealthy about its positioning and exact nature of activities. When approached by Tehelka as part of its undercover operation for an interview, WV India's national director, Dr Jayakumar Christian, after having agreed to the interview backed out because he wanted copies of the fictitious Christian magazine that Tehelka claimed to be representing.

However, what goes unnoticed by the governments and the corporate world is WV India's evangelical missions as part of its development agenda. Proselytisation is an integral part of its provision of development services under its much-touted ADP programmes. Though none of the literature published by WV India even mentions its evangelisation missions, foreign publications of WV India proudly proclaim its "spiritual" component.

Take for instance, WV New Zealand's report (4 September 2002) on the funding of ADP in Dahod, Gujarat. Under the head, 'spiritual development' the report states: "Held a vacation Bible school for 150 children from different villages. The children participated in games, Bible quizzes, drama and other activities. Organised a one-day spiritual retreat for 40 young people and a children's Christmas party. Each of Dahod's 45 villages chose five needy children to attend the party." In Dumaria, Banka district, eastern Bihar, "the ADP supports local churches by running leadership-training courses for pastors and church leaders."

 
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