Outrage in India as NGO leader accuses Mother Teresa of only helping the poor 'to convert them to Christianity'

Charities and politicians have hit out at the claims

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The Independent Online

The leader of a right-wing volunteering organisation in India has accused Mother Teresa of only seeking to help poor people in order to “convert those she served to Christianity”.

Mohan Bhagwat, chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) NGO, have sparked controversy in India just one week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi issued a call for greater harmony and “complete freedom of faith” across the country.

Filmed while inaugurating an orphanage and women’s home in Bharatpur during a tour of the north-western state of Rajasthan, Bhagwat was quoted by a number of media outlets including the Press Trust of India as saying that the facility would “not provide a service like that rendered by Mother Teresa”.

“Mother Teresa's service might have been good,” he said. “But there was a motive behind it – to convert the person being served to Christianity.

“The question is not about conversion but if this (conversion) is done in the name of service, then that service gets devalued,” he was quoted by PTI as saying.

The comments have provoked an angry reaction from local politicians and activists alike. Sunita Kumar, a spokesperson for India’s Missionaries of Charity (MOC), told The Indian Express she had worked personally with Mother Teresa and that : “In my 50 years with MOC and during that time, I have not seen a single case where people were asked to convert to Christianity.

“Even now, at Mother House on special occasions, mass prayers are organised and people of all religions participate and offer prayers according to their religion.”

Rajasthan congressman Sachin Pilot told the paper the comments came from a right-wing group “casting aspersions on eminent people like Mother Teresa in a deliberate attempt to whip up negative emotions and distort history”.

Father Savarimuthu Sankar, a spokesperson for the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese, told NDTV: “It is a very sad statement.  We are downgrading her when she is not even alive. If she has really converted [people] please bring us the dates and we will answer to that.”

But speaking for Modi’s ruling BJP party, national spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi appeared to try to justify Bhagwat’s comments.

She told The Times of India: “Mother Teresa herself during an interview said that 'a lot of people confuse me as social worker, I am not a social worker. I am in the service of Jesus and my job is to spread the word of Christianity and bring people to its fold’.”

Asked if she was defending the comments, Lekhi said: “Who am I to justify Mr Bhagwat? I've nothing to do with it. Government has nothing to do with what Mohan ji has said.”

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