The Odisha police have arrested a 68-year-old Bhartiya citizen of British origin, John Patrick Bridge, for sexually abusing a minor boy. With this, the issue of sexual abuse of children in Christian missionary run orphanages is again in the spotlight.
This time, an orphanage run by a British origin man in Jharsugda of Odisha has been the center of focus. The victim was staying in the shelter home and studied at the institute set up by him. Bridge is accused of sexually abusing the minor several times while he was residing in the shelter home way back in 2015. Similar allegation was also levelled by another person of Bhabanipur area in Sundargarh district. He allegedly was sexually abused while coming to the shelter home for Bible classes.
John Patrick Bridge
John Bridge had been running an organisation called Faith Outreach since 1991 and ran 7 shelter homes, 4 day care centres, as well as a school in Jharsugda. Each year, apparently 70 poor children from tribal areas were admitted in the shelter home. It must be noted that the children were not orphans.
According to the website of the organisation, John Partridge Bridge became an Bhartiya citizen in 1992. He later married a Bhartiya woman. Twitter user @by2kaafi dug around for his foreign connections and funding details that we have used later in this article. Bridge is a Christian Pastor and well funded through FCRA and well connected to politicians in foreign nations.
Apparently, John Bridge has been working very hard to convert Hindus into Christianity in the area. He has been hosting Christian Missionaries from foreign countries and helping them in their work of conversion. According to a blog post by a missionary from New Zealand, before John Bridge, there were no Christians in the area and due to his efforts, now there are lots of churches around. Foreign missionaries are being given access to Bhartiya children by John Patrick Bridge, which is in contravention of laws of Bharat.
Christian missionaries and child abuse
In early 2002, Spotlight team at The Boston Globe published results of an investigation that brought the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy into the national spotlight. In 2015, the movie based on this story bagged the Oscar Award for Best Picture.
Although, not so pervasive as in Catholic Church, sexual abuse by various denominations of Protestant church continues to make news. It is specially seen in orphanages, where predators have unsupervised contact with vulnerable and poor children. In India, the situation is particularly bad. Indeed, the current investigations were started after New Zealand govt apprised Indian High commission of some financial wrongdoings by Bridge.
In Odisha itself, Pastor Faiz Rehman was arrested under POCSO in 2018 for sexual abuse of girls. The girls were inmates in the centers run by Faiz Rehman under his NGO, Good News India. It is to be noted that this centre also received substantial funding through FCRA from USA. Indeed, Chuck Grassley, a very senior US senator from Iowa had written to authorities in Bharat in favor of Faiz Rehman and accused them of bias against Christians!
Funding of Faith Outreach
Faith Outreach gets huge amount of funds from foreign countries. According to its own declaration, in the year 2018-19 it got total foreign contribution of approximately Rs. 2 crores, of which about Rs. 1.5 crores was directly from foreign sources and rest from local transfers. In the year 2017-18, it received about Rs. 2 crores and in 2016-17 about 2.5 crores in foreign funding. It has been receiving crores in foreign funding at least since 2006-2007 and thus through this single organisation at least 20-25 crores has been spent in Christian conversion in a small place like Jharsugda!
Its biggest doners were World Outreach Ministries of Texas, USA, Faith Outreach of New Zealand and Intermission of Germany. The Faith Outreach of New Zealand is run by Andrew King, former Hamilton mayor and businessman. World Outreach Ministries of Texas, USA defines its mission on its facebook page as “World Outreach Ministries was founded in 1984 by Revs. Mark and Colleen Handy and seeks to reach the unreached through evangelism, church planting, pastors/wives conferences, and child welfare programs.” They work not only in Odisha, but also in Karnataka and other Bharatiya states. Clearly, their focus is conversion and welfare is just a pretext.
The tribal belt of Odisha has long been on the target of Christian Missionaries. According to the data accessed on FCRA website, in 2018-19, the biggest receivers of foreign funds in Odisha was CIF Trust, which received about Rs. 30 crores in foreign funding. It is another front of Christian missionaries. After analysis of data, we found that about Rs. 270 crores were received in the year 2019-20 in foreign funding through FCRA in Odisha and majority of the money went to Christian missionaries! This funding is apart from local donations and tithe collected in the Churches! No wonder thousands of people are getting converted every year in Odisha.
Govt has booked Paster John Patrick Bridge under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and SC/ST Act, but he should also be investigated for misuse of funds received under Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act. As he hosted foreign missionaries against the law, he should also be charged for abetting violation of visa rules and all such foreign visitors to his organisation should be blacklisted as according to law.
The silence of Dalit rights groups in this matter also causes one to suspect that many are on missionary payroll. These children from vulnerable communities were exploited and surprisingly, there is no noise from their side at all.
The tendency of Christian missionaries to use service as a pretext for conversion is quite old. They opened schools, hospitals and orphanages etc. not because they had any compassion, but because they felt a religious duty to covert others. The same continues even today. Even Mahatma Gandhi noticed this tendency and frequently condemned this in his writings. Vivekananda famously rebuked such missionaries.
It should be noted that due to inattention of the govt, many states in north east became Christian majority in last century. The govt should strictly regulate the activities of missionaries in all parts of Bharat and ensure that they do not prey on the poor and vulnerable.
This post was published in Hindupost on 22 August 2020.
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