The CSF has over the last year been receiving complaints regarding a couple of international or foreign ministries / preachers / artistes who have come to India or propose to do so. A few have it would seem, unwittingly chosen to disregard the law of the land. While we are trying to lobby with the government on these freedom of movement / expression or religious liberty issues, it is necessary that we as Christians are accountable and sensitive while promoting all such evangelical and worship initiatives that come from abroad. There are compliances with respect to the law of the land, which needs to be strictly adhered to, until we succeed in changing them – e.g. acquire all necessary visa, endorsement, national approval, police and local authorities documentations, etc. If we don’t, we give Christianity a bad image, which affects the vast amount of good we do and is seen as motivated.
The purpose of this note is for the community to reflect and pray, besides the ‘leaders’ exercising an internal code of conduct and ethics, while extending invites or accepting such invitations to have such persons / groups in India. Often, promoters of such Christian events (crusades, concerts…), not based in India have conducted evangelical / religious programs without proper permissions. Some have reportedly absconded, without filing for taxes, not paying their dues, etc. Such violators are therefore banned or have the authorities looking out for them and hold them culpable for the irregularities. Often the real sufferers are Indian Christians, who are unable to organise or get benefit from similar or better programs by other foreign ministries / preachers / artistes, who are then also suspiciously looked upon.
There is also need to sensitize international or foreign ministries / preachers / artistes to freedom of faith issues and local sentiments of various communities in India, failing which we have statements that hurt sensibilities and sentiments. The foreigners must also be told that Indian Christians are still very much a poor lot and hence, such programs must be supported by norminally priced tickets or better still free and sponsored by generous donors. When tickets are priced unreasonably because of tax, to “gift” the foreigner, arrange for a affluent lifestyle tour or put-up a razmatazz show, it attracts the unpleasant attention of the FRRO authorities or related government departments.
But what is even worse is that we Christians ourselves do not benefit, as a large number of them cannot attend these pricey events, which give the programs a money-making racket connotation. The expenses to host foreign ministries / preachers / artistes needs to be kept at a minimum, including a token honorarium and not be so exorbitant, so as to leave the hosts or promoters with little or no resources to even pay their vendors or finance their projects. We are given to understand that some of these event organisers have even had to sell off their assets to pay bills.
Finally, the neo international or foreign ministries / preachers / artistes need to understand the dynamics of ministering in India, without causing disharmony amongst existing Christian ministries that have painstakingly been sowing seeds in this nation, for decades. These persons / groups need to know that their actions before / during / after their visit, affects the way Indian Christians are treated and viewed at by their fellow citizens and authorities – not to mention persecuted by fundamentalists of other faiths.
The CSF on its part would like to invite those interested in lobbying with the government to facilitate visits by international or foreign ministries / preachers / artistes and make it easier to do so, which is a basic human right, to get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org so that many may be blessed.
We would also do well to encourage our own local and Indian talent in the field, who are equal, if not better than those abroad.
Your Servant in the Lord’s Service,