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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Evangelist Paul Dinakaran’s foreign-funded NGO luring tribals to convert, accused of misrepresentation

Tele-evangelist Paul Dinakaran is in the news again allegedly for trying to lure tribals to embrace Christianity. Paul Dinakaran’s Karunya University in Coimbatore, Jesus Calls Ministries based out of Chennai and other assorted organisations and their offices were recently raided by the Income Tax department. He runs 3 FCRA NGOs: Jesus Calls, Samiti for Education Environment Social and Health Action (SEESHA) and Karunya Research and Educational Trust. He runs three NGOs with similar names in the US as well and raises funds for the Indian ones there.

SEESHA with a facade of doing social work engages in conversion through coercion. While it was only a speculation before, now they have been caught red handed when they were trying to lure tribals into conversion through allurement and coercive means. Tamil daily Dinamalar reported that locals caught Paul’s workers who were giving out things like new clothes, bed sheets, small gifts for children and banners. An activist upon hearing that Karunya’s mobile clinic was spotted at a nearby village went to inquire what they were doing.

As per the activist’s account, SEESHA volunteers who came in the ambulance told different reasons for the visit saying they came to see their acquaintances, for house warming ceremony and such. The activist informed the forest officials as the Karunya mobile clinic ambulance was prowling through tribal villages. Upon inquiry, officials found that they came without a permit. The things that the ambulance brought were discovered in the dwellings of the tribals as well. Deducing that it was an attempt to convert tribals through allurement and coercive means, the activist filed a complaint with the forest and police departments and local body representatives.

Paul Dinakaran
Villagers erected a new board with the original name of the village, Nallur Vayal. Dinakaran changed the name to Karunya Nagar after establishing Karunya University

He also took it to the notice of the health department for using an ambulance for other illegal means. He alleges that despite his complaints, no action has been taken yet and that if this continues tribals will be converted by Dinakaran in large numbers. Every year Paul Dinakaran celebrates his birthday at Karunya University with his family and some so-called social services are done through SEESHA to celebrate the occasion. Last year they put their name on the green houses constructed with government’s help. 

They claimed to have given some amount for building the houses and put a board saying ‘Constructed with the help of Paul Dinakaran SEESHA-Karunya society development project under Tamil Nadu government’s green house scheme’ which gives the impression that they funded the houses. Last year, on Paul’s birthday they were to open that inscription for public view but the villagers’ opposition stopped them. Villagers point out to the fact that SEESHA sounds similar to Isha (Foundation), a Hindu organisation run by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, which extends a supportive hand to tribals of the region without expecting anything in return, and that tribals could be caught unaware by Jesus Calls through this jugglery.

Dinakarans’ Jesus Calls Ministries has 126 Prayer Towers all over the world and they are said to receive 500,000 calls for prayer every month. These prayer towers are open 24/7. They offer different ‘prayer plans’ as paid services. One of these prayer towers is located opposite the Bharatiya parliament and another one in Israel overlooking Jerusalem as per the information provided in their website. They proudly claim that the prayer tower in Israel has a 360-degree view from its 20th floor of the tallest building in Ben Yehuda Street, with the view of Jerusalem on one side and the Israeli parliament on the other. 

Legal Rights Observatory, working towards exposing FCRA NGOs misusing foreign funds tweeted that the properties of 30 of the prayer towers in Bharat and 17 located abroad are owned by Dhinakaran and his family. They have also forwarded a complaint to the environment ministry to initiate action against Karunya University for allegedly encroaching 750 acres of land in the middle of an elephant corridor. SHEESHA which collects funds for orphanages located across Bharat, some of which are CogWheel Trust, Peniel Orphanage, Buckley Orphanage for Tribal Girls, The Fellowship in Gorakhpur, YMCA in Madurai, SIGA Trust Leprosy Project, ELSIYOM raises INR 15,000 per child for a year from foreigners. 

They also gather funds for tuition and computer centres – INR 10,000 each for a month from a single person. These tuition centres are a means to lure children from the vulnerable section of the society in the name of education to convert them. In most cases prayer halls serve as tuition centres and at the beginning and end of the tuition classes, Christian prayers are held.

Villagers of Nallur Vayal, Coimbatore where Karunya University is located have been protesting against such methods for a long time and it has only intensified after the IT raids. It has given a renewed hope for the residents of the village in changing the village name given by Dinakaran, Karunya Nagar, to its original name Nallur Vayal. After naming the area Karunya Nagar, Dinakaran with the help of corrupt officials, used it to identify the area in the local police station, post office, telephone exchange, etc., and established a mini Vatican for themselves. After the protests a few days back, representatives of the local body passed a resolution to revert back to the original name of the village and implement it in the government offices as well. They have also erected a new name board on the highway with the village’s original name Nallur Vayal.

(Featured Image Credit: Facebook)

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