Another Massive Storm is Brewing
Lockdown measures around the world have had devastating impact for millions. We documented some of those challenges that populations in Asia have faced recently. We continue to seek assistance for many who still face significant needs.
There is another storm brewing, however, which we are compelled to bring to your attention.
The Economist ran an article in October suggesting that some governments have taken advantage of the pandemic to carry out controversial plans. Specifically, most nations have turned their attention inward to deal with the impact of Covid-19 and are not thinking about internal affairs elsewhere. Actions of the government of India are particularly concerning. For example, the ruling party prohibited question period and private members’ bills during the September parliamentary session citing the health risks of Covid-19. Conveniently, in 3 days, the Hindu nationalist government passed 25 bills because the opposition walked out.
One of these Bills which became law on September 29th has been of particular concern to our mission partners in India. It was introduced to parliament for the first time on September 20th and “no one even had a clue that this Bill was in the offing” (thewire.in). The likely impact is what many are calling the upcoming “F.C.R.A. Storm” (F.C.R.A. refers to non-profits registered to receive contributions tax free from outside the country for charitable purposes).
Because the Bill became law so quickly, no one was able to prepare for what was coming. In early October our partners sent urgent messages instructing us to not send any funds to India. Overnight the government rendered invalid nearly every avenue to receive foreign contributions. The new law demanded that each registered non-profit be permitted to receive foreign support exclusively at one designated bank branch in the entire country. The purpose of this move is to increase government surveillance on monies entering the country. None of our partners, however, possessed an account at this branch and their hands were tied.
We prayed and discussed in our office what we might do if our regular channels of transferring funds were not possible for a lengthy period. Some of our partners said that they thought it would be months before they could receive funds again. By God’s grace, the government did issue a public notice to provide a grace period to open their bank account at the designated branch in New Delhi until March 31, 2021. Until that date, non-profits will be able to receive contributions in their existing accounts.
Some of the other changes that are alarming include, firstly, requiring each non-profit registered to receive foreign funding to re-register in the first six months of 2021. During the re-registration process, the government has given itself the authority to scrutinize past compliance which will likely make the process quite cumbersome. Secondly, small non-profits will have difficulty qualifying for re-registration because they will have to prove that they have received the equivalent of over CAD$30,000 during the last 3 years in order to qualify. Finally, Christian non-profits will be singled out and likely face increased scrutiny because they will be required to indicate to the government that they identify as Christian in one of the re-registration questions.
Most of our partners in India are facing this re-registration process and are not sure how to best proceed. The legislation does not, in writing, prevent Christians from doing registered charitable work. They recognize, however, that their ministry contributions are not seen very favourably by the current government. Part of the new legislation also indicates that non-profits who fail to re-register will have their assets seized by the government. Some of our partners are considering liquidating assets out of concern for what may come.
We are writing this article to inform you about what may lay ahead for our partners in India. Our desire is for you to join us in prayer that our brothers and sisters would continue in boldness through this season of uncertainty. Pray with us that the joy in Christ of the believers would abound and overshadow all of the persecutions they face (Heb 10:34). We also ask that you please pray for us that God would grant us the wisdom to proceed in our partnerships in a manner that pleases him for his greater glory.