There has always been a hue and cry over the alleged persecution of Christians in India, which in the past year has escalated, whereas the reality is otherwise. Almost all such instances have been shown to be baseless, false, and deliberately misleading—for example, see IndiaFacts exposes here and here. It is clear from these that the motive of both the string-pullers and their puppets is to falsely stigmatise Hindus and India rather than in finding the Truth.
We can flip the coin and ask this question: are there counter examples of proselytization and evangelical activities in India since June 2014? In particular, by, say, foreigners?
The answer is an unequivocal yes. This research report unearths yet another such instance which attempts to understand the operations of some foreign organizations (euphemistically called Charities) in India—middle India, to be precise.
The Mission Trip
Ubali, Near Nagpur, January 10, 2013:
“…To make a long story short, we walked into the village and started preaching.. Phooey to whoever said you can’t do that, Holy Spirit don’t care, Holy Spirit just
takes what He wants. As the Indians preached the Word, half our team was invited over this lady’s house…”
(Phooey: “derisive disbelief” (American slang))
That was from a blog (Website, Archive) written by a team of eight American youth from Biola University (a private Christian University in USA) who were on a mission trip to India, facilitated by Truthseekers International, USA. The team went to villages around
Gwalior, Nagpur, and Yavatmal. Apart from preaching, they were also involved in what are called “feet-washing” ceremonies, during which the feet of villagers are washed by the American visitors.
In a village near Nagpur:
“Today consisted of visiting a village. It was a long day, but for me one of the most rewarding. We were able to see another Indian farm, prayer for multiple people in a village, and share the message of Truthseekers, and more importantly the Gospel.“
Near Nagpur, January 7, 2013 (Website, Archive)
“It’s a little bizarre being so put on display, but our light skin is a unique tool that we have to reach these people, and I’m glad we can use it to the glory of Christ.”
“We’re realizing more and more that we’re in the midst of a civil rights movement of sorts in India, and we’re right in the thick of the revolutionaries’ movement. It’s bizarre to think that we’re helping an organization that’s basically trying to upset the whole society and religious structure of this country, and we’re seeing God do amazing things through these people.”
Discounting for the fact that the blogger may be hyperbolizing, what these expressions imply is the ease of access of ordinary American citizens to enter and preach in our villages. While such mission trips have been known for a long while and have been catalogued (see also: Youth with a Mission and Evangelist Modus Operandi), what is important to note is this team is pleasantly surprised (the Phooey sentence above) that, contrary to what they have been reading in Indian and foreign English mainstream media, it was rather easy for them to preach in our villages. As an aside, this persecution complex is intrinsic to the proselytization machinery. Thus, even if persecution is absent, the latter will synthesize an imaginary one.
So who directs these students to come to Gwalior, Nagpur etc? Let us check out a description of their visit (Website, Archive) undertaken in 2013.
“Partnering with an organization called Truthseekers International, Team India travelled through towns and villages including Gwalior, Nagpur and New Delhi. Spending approximately five days in each area, the team took part in footwashing rallies, serving the Dalits or untouchable caste, and sharing the gospel with them.”
“We are longing to see Jesus worshiped (sic) in India and we want that to be our only motivation for going.”
Foreign “Charities” and the FCRA Conduit
What is Truthseekers International (TI), USA? How are they able to organize visits of people to our remote villages regularly? Their website (Website, Archive) states:
“Truthseekers is committed to the belief that the Gospel of Jesus will destroy one of the most grievous violations of human rights still in existence – the caste system.”
In other words: whatever it takes to harvest souls. To get to the root of the exact sort of motivation that drives this kind of brazenness, it would be instructive to read the scholarly articles of Shrikant Talageri here.
So, who runs TI? A who is query (Website, Archive) on TI’s website returns the name of one, Grant McFarland, Texas as the Administrator. More information can be obtained from their Form-990. Form-990 is an annual tax return that needs to be filed by non-profit organizations in the USA (which are not deemed as Church) to their Tax Agencies. Truthseekers International’s 2011 return mentions a Rev. Sunil Sardar as a Director.
TI’s financial return (Figure 1) states this as their mission objective:
“Truthseekers is a Christ-centered reconciliation movement committed to spiritual and social freedom for India’s oppressed”
Now, the next question: how is TI able to operate within India? TI has an office in New Delhi. Or, that’s what the foreigners coming on Mission Trips believe. Not having the wherewithal of any mainstream media reportage on this, we cannot verify if it has an office or not in India. However, FCRA records identify its Indian Partner. It is Akhil Bharatiya Antyodaya Sansthan (ABAS), 18/489, Trilok Puri, Delhi –110091 (Reg. No.: 231660186).
In the realm of FCRA, ABAS describes itself as a “Cultural, Economic, Educational and Social” Organization. Note that the only other option allowed within FCRA is “Religious”. Public domain FC6 returns accessed by the IndiaFacts Team from the Ministry of Home Affairs reveal that ABAS had received Rs 19.3 and Rs 37.3 lakhs from a strangely named entity, “International Technical Assistance Group (ITAG)”, Seattle in 2006-07 and 2007-2008 respectively. In 2008-09, it received Rs 53.7 lakhs from ITAG and Rs 2.3 lakhs from Truthseekers International. It also happens to have received over Rs 8.0 lakhs from a certain Pamela Sardar, Indiana in the same year. In 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, its primary donor was Truthseekers International with inflows of Rs 68, 92 108 and 106 lakhs respectively. In 2012, strangely (or not so strangely), it received around Rs9.2 lakhs from North Park University, Boston. In 2013-14, the ABAS donor changed to Great Commission Mission, Florida with inflow of Rs 65 lakh. This was likely necessitated by the dissolution of Truthseekers International as can be gleaned from TI’s Form-990 for the year 2012 (Part IV, Line 31). The same document provides us an understanding of TI’s modus operandi in India and snippets from it are shown in the following figure.
Thus, it is clear that Truthseekers International, USA has been funding Akhil Bharatiya Antyodaya Sansthan, New Delhi for Christian evangelism purposes and camouflages the same as “caste reconciliation”.
But what does ABAS state in its FC6 returns as the Purpose for which TI is sending money? It states “Activities other than mentioned above!” Not once, not twice. In all of its returns, over the last eight years. Year after year! Well, just in case you need to check out the entire gamut of activities (illustrative) permitted for foreign funding under FCRA, read the Ministry of Home Affairs website here.
The governing body of ABAS accessed on their website here (Archive) mentions Rev. Sunil Sardar as its General Secretary. Not so surprisingly, the website of ABAS, which received large funds exclusively from Truthseekers International via FCRA does not mention Christianity or Gospel etc.
This relationship which exists between TI and ABAS is rampant across the FCRA domain. The separation of their identities is notional. A very large number of so-called NGOs are purely agents or exclusive franchisees of Foreign Charities, or their Contractor.
In pursuit of their aim to vivisect the Indian society, these Contractors and Agents use all manners of ruse and deception. One of the most popular is caste. Needless to state, discrimination on the basis of jAti (we prefer to use this word of Indian origin) in public space is abominable. However, we should, in general, be wary of breaking India forces which employ this calumny to proselytize.
How does this happen? Consider the feet-washing event by the University students we saw earlier. Students from Biola University and North Park University, USA (Website, Archive) have visited India earlier too and have actively participated in such events.
In fact, as this North Park University page (Website, Archive) mentions, one of their faculty members is involved in a project of translating the Bible to Hindi poetry, in collaboration with Truthseekers International.
In this connection, we remind the readers of the Rs 9.2 lakhs remittance from North Park University to ABAS, Delhi via FCRA in 2012, mentioned earlier. Such pronouncements of their activities and the associated money trail forms the basis of our surmise that ABAS, New Delhi, a FCRA-NGO, is likely understood as Truthseekers International by its collaborators and guests from abroad. A footnote to this story is that a one-time Chair of the Governing Board of North Park University, Ms. Kyle Becchetti has also been the Director of Operations of Truthseekers International. Since 2012, she and her husband, Noel Becchetti lead Asian Access (Website, Archive), another American evangelical organization which, too, is working in India. Here is the interview of David Dayalan, National Director of Asian Access, India in this US Radio Interview.
What is in a Name? Ain’t it the same Rose?
Why this Organization is called Truthseekers?
To understand this, we need to have a brief overview of the work of Jyotiba Phule, the social reformer from Maharashtra. Along with his wife, Savitribai Phule, he campaigned for the education of women and also against jAti-based discrimination. In 1873, he founded an organization called Satyashodhak Samaj which can be translated as the Society of Seekers of Truth. Truthseekers International, which officially does not exist in India (actually not even in the US now, as it has been liquidated – see the discussion earlier) conducts feet-washing programmes in Gwalior, Nagpur and Yavatmal and also organizes events celebrating the life and works of Jyotiba and Savitribai Phule.
The foreigners who participate in these programmes ipso facto consider these activities as organized by Truthseekers International. Not just that, mainstream media in Hindi covers such programmes and mentions them to have been conducted either by Satyashodhak Samaj (Website, Archive) or by Antara-Rashtriya Satyashodhak Samaj (Website1, Archive1, Website2, Archive2).
In Website2, one can see the Delhi based Missionary Grant McFarland speaking. Our media is not alone in getting deceived thus. In an event in February 2015 celebrating the Natnagar Ghummakkad Samaj held at Morena, Madhya Pradesh, Pamela Sardar spoke that “women are not respected by men in India”. In this newspaper story (Website, Archive) about the function, where she was described as a social worker, the Chief Guest was Shri Nandkumar Chauhan, BJP MP from Khandwa.
Thus, Truthseekers International has evidently chosen its name so to misappropriate the works of the Phules and remove their causes from the all-embracing folds of Hinduism with an ulterior proselytizing motive. If you are still unconvinced about it, check out how Pastor Stephen Sharkey of Highrock Covenant Church (Website, Archive), Massachusetts discusses his initial discomfort (and eventual reconciliation) when he, in March 2013, saw Rev. Sunil Sardar positioning Jesus Christ as Mahabali Chakravarti. He of course calls it contextualization, as he is impressed that this pitch has enabled the “radical turn of an entire village towards Jesus”. Much of these activities appear to be coordinated and chronicled by an American national hailing from Texas and residing in New Delhi over the last 3-4 years. His blog (Post1, Archive1, Post2, and Archive2) reveals this group’s operations and its nexus with the “intelligentsia” and provincial politicians of Delhi.
Some of the very early blogposts of this young Missionary soon after he arrived in New Delhi are downright outrageous ( Website, Archive). This Missionary is also featured along with Rev. Sunil Sardar on the stage at a function held in Yavatmal featuring Ms. Arundhati Roy’s acceptance speech for a Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Award (Photo below). In the same meeting, Navayana Publishers‘ S. Anand and Prof. Kancha Ilaiah (Adviser of the Indian Christian Secular Party, Telengana (Website, Archive) also spoke.
Since the event took place far away from New Delhi, it may not be a bad idea for the readers of IndiaFacts to watch these videos so as to gain a clear understanding of the minds of these luminaries.
Fast Forward to 2015:
Mission Trip 1: While working on this report, we learnt (Website1, Archive1, Website2, Archive2) of the untimely demise of a student of Biola University, USA due to medical issues while she was on her Mission Trip to spread the Good News in Gwalior on 16 January 2015. Now, this article (Website, Archive) further mentions how the “Team India” from Biola University, USA which visited Gwalior and environs in January 2015 presented the Gospel to five unreached people groups.
Mission Trip 2: A student group from North Park University, USA, hosted by “Truthseekers International” had visited similar sites in April 2015. They were engaged in a mission “to further the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, or, as we call him in India, Baliraja” (Website, Archive).
- Foreign money-driven proselytism continues to be alive and thriving in India. Based on our experience of chronicling these nefarious activities designed to uproot Dharma from this sacred land of India, we would characterize the example discussed here as a relatively minor one.
- Foreign evangelical organizations work in India under several pretexts, one of them being “eradication of caste”. Their real motive though is the Spread of the Gospel. One of the many ways by which they fund this activity is the FCRA route.
- The Truthseekers group and its allies operate at two levels. On the surface, it would appear as if they are working against caste-based discrimination in public spheres. However, scratch this veneer off, and one can see its attempt to portray Christianity as the Path for “liberation”.
In this respect, it shares certain traits with the Dravidian discourse of Tamil Nadu (which in turn can be traced back to the seeds planted by early Missionaries there). The efforts of Truthseekers International and similar foreign operators must be seen in this light.
- The general Hindu populace and politicians of all hues appear to be clueless about the hidden agenda of many of these foreign funded, foreign driven operators.
- A live example has been presented to the readers in this report. It is up to Indians to decide whether they wish to see India as just another Christian outpost of the West.
- 1. Kingdom of Baliraja, Screen grab from Megan Beatty’s channel https://wwyoutube.com/watch?v=hTK_PGEgUf4
- 2. Arundhati Roy along with Rev. Sunil Sardar and Grant McFarlan Screen grab from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zr8lNRaHhU
1. https://wwyoutube.com/watch?v=MpP8LF1iK-E Testimony of Grant McFarland in Central Presbyterian Church, Waxahachie, Texas, about his Missionary work in India, dated January 29, 2013.
IndiaFacts Staff articles, reports and guest pieces