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
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
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."