Almost 150,000 Indian children face returning to a life of debilitating poverty due to a decision by the Indian government to restrict the operations of Compassion International.

The global charity has been working with local churches in India for 48 years to support children and their families living in poverty. Compassion International will wind up its operations in India on 15 March.

A child sponsored through Compassion

A child sponsored through Compassion Compassion Australia

In July 2016, Compassion was alerted by local partners that the Indian government had, several months earlier, frozen funds critical to its operations. The government was not releasing the money to the 589 church partners who run projects supporting Indian children.

Tim Hanna, CEO of Compassion Australia, told Eternity, “they didn’t tell us [they weren’t distributing the money]. When we made enquiries, they said that they were freezing the funds and that [we weren’t] able to distribute.”

“There hasn’t been a clear reason given. I think the government itself is clamping down on foreign NGOs and we’re one of the larger ones of those.

“We trust that the local church will keep looking after them, but with less resources.” – Tim Hanna

“We presume it has to do with religious reasons, with a government that’s less and less sympathetic to specific Christian ministries. We can only assume that’s the reason as well. [But] they haven’t said that clearly to us.”

Compassion supporters around the world support 147,000 Indian children, the largest in-country project run by the organisation. About 6000 of those supporters are Australian.

Hanna hopes that Aussies who have sponsored Indian children will consider sponsoring a child elsewhere in the world, because “that would mean that the fight against poverty doesn’t even take one small step backwards.”

While Compassion will officially withdraw from India next week, local churches will continue to serve Indian children and their families.

“We would hope to be back into India making a difference again as soon as possible.” – Tim Hanna

“We trust that the local church will keep looking after them, but with less resources,” says Hanna. “We trust that the local church is still alive and well in India, and Jesus is still alive and well in India, even though we might have to pull out.

“It’s a setback, but we always have hope. We would hope to be back into India making a difference again as soon as possible. Whether that happens in the near future, we can’t predict.

“We take hope in the fact that already now there’s young people who are doctors and lawyers and nurses and teachers and pastors who’ve been through our programmes.

“We know we’ve made a difference; we’d love to get back in and make more of a difference.”

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