The government of India is inspecting all of the childcare facilities operated by the Missionaries of Charity, the congregation of Catholic nuns founded by Mother Teresa. The probe came after a lay employee reported allegations of the selling of babies for adoption. India’s Ministry of Women and Child Development released a statement this week that illegal adoptions were allegedly carried out at the by Nirmal Hriday (Tender Hearts) -- a residence for unmarried mothers run by the Missionaries of Charity in Ranchi, in Jharkhand state, which lies in the east of the country. Mother Teresa is considered a saint by Catholics and is revered by people of all religions around the world.
Minister Maneka Gandhi is calling all the regions of India to inspect the homes operated by the congregation inspected immediately. In response, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted on Thursday that the Missionaries of Charity is being targeted by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is affiliated with a Hindu nationalists. He tweeted: “Mother Teresa herself set up Missionaries of Charity. And now they are also not being spared. Malicious attempts to malign their name. The Sisters are being targeted. #BJP want to spare no one. Highly condemnable. Let MOC continue to do their work for the poorest of the poor.”
According to Rajiv Tuli -- a leader of the powerful Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) -- Mother Teresa should be stripped of India’s highest civilian award — the Bharat Ratna (jewel of India) — which was conferred on her in 1980 if the charges against her are proved to be true.RSS is known as the grassroots organization of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. Tuli’s demand is supported by parliamentarian Subramanian Swamy, who leads Modi’s pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
On July 4, Sister Concelia Balsa and social worker Anima Indwar were arrested following accusations that they had sought to sell a baby. According to police, a childless couple claimed to have paid a woman $1,760 for a child, who she later took back without refunding their payment.
The Missionaries of Charity stopped dealing with child adoption in India back in 2015. A spokesperson told Crux that the congregation is looking into the matter and taking precautions to prevent any sale of babies. “We are fully cooperating with the investigations and are open to any free, fair and just inquiry,” Sister Mary Prema Pierick, superior general of the Missionaries of Charity, said in a July 17 statement.
Sister Prema said that Indwar was trusted by Sister Concelia, who managed the unmarried mothers section of the center. When they were busy with other work, the nuns allowed Indwar to escort unwed mothers with their babies to the Child Welfare Committee’s office. The sisters had no means to verify if a baby had been surrendered because, “as a matter of practice,” the government would not acknowledge taking custody of a baby from an unwed mother, Sister Prema said. There are reports that the baby’s mother, Indwar and a guard at the residence took money in exchange for the baby in question. “We have full faith in the courts of law and the investigating authorities and are confident that justice shall prevail,” said Sister Prema’s statement. Sister Concelia and Indwar were arrested on July 4.
Hindu nationalists have rampaged against Christians in India in the not too distant past. In one significant incident, an entire neighborhood of Christians was ousted from their homes. Christians were murdered by an enraged Hindu mob and their homes burned. Christians amount to be 2 percent of India’s population. Hindu nationalists have long accused Christians of using charitable work as a form of proselytism.
Christians have been increasingly harassed in Jharkhand State. Auxiliary Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas of Ranchi said that the Missionaries of Charity are “absolutely innocent.” On NDTV, Bishop Mascarenhas said on Thursday that police forced the accused nun to sign a false confession. The authorities, he said, are “treating the whole of Mother Teresa’s organization as a criminal gang.”
“They are sending 30-40 policemen to each house… the sisters are protesting: Their records are being seized. These are very simple nuns. They don’t want to face the press [and] police,” Mascarenhas said. “I am appealing to all, allow them to do their work in peace.”
“Many myths are being spread, information distorted and false news being diffused, and baseless innuendos being thrown about regarding the Mother Teresa sisters,” Sister Prema said.
The congregation that Mother Teresa founded in 1950 has 244 homes in India. The congregation “vows to continue its wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor” even in the “middle of the unprecedented and unfounded criticism that it faces today,” Sister Prema said in her statement.