Compassion International: US for solution that 'honours India's laws'

Indo Asian News Service

Washington, March 10 (IANS) The US says it wants Compassion International, a Christian missionary outfit, and the Indian government to find a solution that "honours India's laws."

"We want all parties to be able to work cooperatively and certainly in a way that honours India's laws and also, as I said, in a transparent process and find a way forward," Mark Toner, the State Department's Acting Spokesperson said Thursday.

As it is a religious organisation, India had put the Christian group on a list of groups that require prior permission to funds to fund organisations in the country.

Compassion International says on its website that for strategic reasons it works with local churches to provide Christian teachings to the children that it aids.

"We believe the strategic placement of local churches makes them best suited to address the holistic needs of the children in their communities," the missionary organisation declares. "And only they can effectively deliver the Jesus-based teaching and whole-life care that children in poverty deserve."

The missionary organisation had mounted a campaign in the US, corralling members of Congress to take up its cause and having a House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee hold a hearing on its problems in India.

It has since said that it was winding up its $45 million operations in India.

Following up Toner's statement on Wednesday that "it's a matter of concern, but certainly we'll raise that with the Indian Government," take up the Compassion Issue with India, he was asked at his Thursday briefing if "this will become a major irritant in the relations between the two countries?"

Toner said the bilateral relations were "very strong". It was "a relationship where we can talk about, obviously, all the issues we agree on as two strong democracies, but we can also, when needed, share our concerns," he added.

At the same time, he raised the issue of other non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

"I think it speaks to our concerns more broadly about civil society and its ongoing vibrancy and health, and the fact that we will always advocate for freedom of expression and association around the world," Toner said.

"As I said yesterday, over the past couple of years we've seen, frankly, a number of foreign-funded NGOs who have encountered significant challenges to continuing their operations, and it's something we're watching and it's something we're going to engage with the Indian Government on and try to find a way forward," he added.

--IANS

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