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Thursday, October 21, 2021

New Zealand’s Gloriavale Christian Commune in Tamil Nadu

Introduction

Faithful, Blessing, Mercy, Willing, Purity, Loyal, Truth, and David are first names while Helpful, Caring, Servant, Holdfast, Joyful, Stronghold, Gracious, and Peaceful are last names (first and last names are jumbled up in order to protect privacy). Of whom, one may ask. Of eight individuals residing in Southern Tamil Nadu, near Cheranmadevi Panchayat town (near Ambasamudram). These are strange names for people there. Ain’t it? Wait. Are they foreigners? Nah. They are all either Tamils or Telugus and are Bharatiya citizens. Two of them are of feminine gender and the rest are males.

Interest spiked? Read on.

Pause: All information provided in this Post are based on Public Domain data provided by Government of India, the Election Commission of India, and the Tamil Nadu Government Gazette. The Post cites only one Tamil mainstream media story, just for the sake of completeness. The article provides URLs of all the above, so that anyone from anywhere in the world can verify the same and learn. The article makes no judgement on any of the individuals, nor any of the entities mentioned herein.

If you are a reader from New Zealand, you would have solved the riddle by now. Yes indeed, these are names of people who partly constitute the Gloriavale commune’s branch in Bharat (India).

For the odd Desi who may have chanced upon this Post: Gloriavale is located in Western New Zealand. It is a Commune in which people live according to Biblical principles. They tend to farm animals, lead a pious and community-centric life. Not surprisingly, they have a high TFR. They also run several businesses (revolving around their farm produce, livestock etc.) which earn profit by which the commune sustains itself. Notwithstanding the high TFR, the lack of steady gene mixing outside of a small pool (gene diversity) will have long-term biological consequences; the ideators of the Commune appear to have thought through this lacunae and have addressed it innovatively. How? Enter the Land which welcomes All, i.e., Bharat that is India.

Tip of Iceberg Western Ghats

On the Southern side of Kolundumadai Reserve Forest (a small hillock), is a scenic village called Pattankadu, near Thiruviruttanpulli, Cheranmadevi. The Gloriavale Christian Community (GCC), New Zealand formed its branch (the only one outside of New Zealand) Commune there around 2007. How was this financed? Through FCRA of course. In fact, the story on the Gloriavale branch in Bharat was broken on Indiafacts way back in 2015.

The initial seed money for the operations (may be for the purchase of land etc.) came to Dohnavur Fellowship (DF) via FCRA (Recall that the Irish Missionary Amy Carmichael founded this entity in Southern Tirunelveli district, way back in the early 1900s, during the British Raj, by spinning a tonne of atrocity literature, such as for instance, the ‘rescue of temple girls’).

The eight individuals mentioned above converted out of Hinduism (alias: Hindu/Sanatana Dharma) to Christianity vide their affidavits and announced the same to the world at large, through the internet, via various Gazette notifications of the State Government of Tamil Nadu. These Gazette notifications mention their original Hindu names, their date of birth, their father’s name, their original native town, the date of their conversion to Christianity and their new names according to the Gloriavale Naming Convention (GNC).

A summary of what we learn from these Gazette notifications: (i) Their fathers did not convert themselves to Christianity. (ii) The age of these individuals on the date of their respective religious conversion range from 12 (twelve! #SMH) to 25 (twenty five). (iii) The year of conversion ranged from 2003 to 2012. The individuals themselves are currently aged between 29 and 35. (iv) While two individuals hail from Krishna and West Godavari Districts of Andhra Pradesh and one from Khammam in Telangana, the others state that they hail from Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu.

Further knowledge on the citizenship of these individuals can be gleaned from the Voters List of Ambasamudram Assembly Constituency published in 2019, by which it is ascertained that all of them hold Bharat’s citizenship.

As we mentioned earlier, the Darpan portal of Niti Aayog provides names of the Functionaries of the Christian Church Community, FCRA-NGO, TN/076030358, as Faithful Stronghold, Loyal Joyful and Truth Holdfast.

Financial Data:

CCC received sums of Rs. 1.73 Crore, Rs. 2.19 Crore, Rs. 1.83 Crore and Rs. 2.26 Crore from Gloriavale Christian Community, New Zealand in the years 2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20 respectively.

CCC reported the purchase of fresh assets (likely permanent ones such as land, farming equipments, livestock etc.) of Rs. 0.53 Crore, 0.78 Crore, Rs. 0.51 Crore, and 0.47 Crore respectively for the same years as above.

Dohnavur Fellowship (located within 20 km of CCC) received the following amounts as donations from Christian Caring Community Centre (one of the entities related to GCC and located within Gloriavale) during the years 2016-17, 2017-18: 0.12 Crore, 0.30 Crore respectively and Rs. 0.36 Crore from GCC in 2019-20.

Business Data Aggregator, 99Corporates states that Christian Church Community was registered as a Charitable Trust in Bapulapadu village, Krishna District (near Vijayawada) and that its Date of Incorporation is 13-February-2007. It is to be noted that Bapulapadu is very close to Hanuman Junction.

The portal also mentions that the original Trustees were/are Faithful Stronghold Kottapalli, Jeremiah Rajanesan (JR) and Loyal Joyful Kathula.  In a newsletter dated November 2011, Bengaluru based renowned environmental NGO, ATREE (Ashoka), mentions that JR is ‘currently heading the Dohnavur Fellowship’. It must be mentioned that this name is not mentioned as a functionary of DF on the Darpan portal currently.

A minor corroboration of the association of these individuals to CCC appears in a Tamil mainstream media dated 05-Nov-2020 which describes how farmers of Ambasamudram were taken on a guided tour of the Cattle farm run by CCC in Pattankadu. The Tamil MSM actually refers to the Cattle farm as “New Zealand Cattle farm”. It further adds that the Farm Manager, Loyal (likely Loyal Joyful) explained the processes of the farm to the local farmers.

CCC’s Business Entity

Not so surprisingly, CCC follows the footsteps of its parent organization, GCC in establishing and running business unit(s). The New Zealand Charity Commission data informs us that GCC (the donee to CCC-India) is not, by itself, a registered ‘charity’. The Gloriavale charity is actually called ‘The Christian Church Community Trust’ (CCCT) with Registration Number: CC25088. According to its 2020-21 Annual Report submitted to the Charity Commission, CCCT claims to control 11 companies, all of them related to farm products.

Interestingly, CCCT’s Annual Returns (for all the years), state that it did not provide any goods/services overseas, it did not use any business income for overseas charitable purpose and it did not receive any donations and use any of its funds for charitable work overseas. This may sound bizarre as CCC (and DF) file FCRA returns with our Ministry of Home Affairs that they have been receiving ‘donations’ from GCC. The answer to this puzzle lies in its Detailed Financial Statement, where it mentions that GCC is a ‘related party’ and that GCC is a ‘bank account used for personal donations to overseas entities and overseas excursions’. Interesting indeed. P.S.: We shall let the reader to understand how this might operate within the cloistered confines of the Commune 🙂

Thus, it comes as no surprise that CCC is also running a business.

CCC’s business entity is called ‘Paradise Food’ and has a Udyog Aadhaar number: TN18A0013316 with a date of commencement as 23-April-2018. This Certificate is issued by Government of India’s Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. Its work is described as: Mutton/Pork Slaughtering, Processing, Preparation, Meat preservation etc. Photographs of its male workers in its farm and female workers in the kitchen are available on their website, all wearing blue uniforms, reminding one of the photographs one sees for Gloriavale, New Zealand. One of the workers in the kitchen photograph appears to be from Gloriavale, NZ itself.

This is how FCRA nourishes ‘Universal Religious Freedom’ in our country.

Citations/Explanatory Notes:

  1. Tamil Nadu Government Gazette Notifications for Change of Name and Change of Religion are available at http://www.stationeryprinting.tn.gov.in/gazette/gazette_list.php. The specific Notifications where the Changes in name and religion covered in this Post can be found in Notifications issued on the following dates: 9-11-2011, 2-9-2011, 22-8-2012, 8-8-2012 and 13-5-2015.
  2. FCRA is the Indian law which governs the receipt of ‘donations’ received from abroad by Indian non-government organizations. Such NGOs with FCRA registration need to file Annual Returns with the Ministry of Home Affairs, which are available for anyone to view/download at fcraonline.nic.in ; CCC’s FCRA Registration Number is: TN/076030358, while that of DF is TN/076030011. The first two alphabets denote the State in which the NGO is located (here, TN stands for Tamil Nadu). For example, to access the FCRA return of CCC for the year 2018-19, do the following:
    1. Click here
    2. Choose 2018-19 as Year, and Tamil Nadu as State. Leave out the District.
    3. A long page appears. Search for 076030358. In the row for this entry, at the rightmost corner, you will see a clickable entry named “View”. Clicking it, will open a PDF file which is the Return we wanted.
  3. The 2019 Electoral Rolls for Ambasamudram Assembly Constituency and specifically for the Pattankadu booth can be found here (Part No. 287, Assembly Constituency No. 225; Pattankadu is Block 1 in Village Thiruviruthanpulli). Check Pages 13 (end) and 14 (start) for the relevant data. The document’s entries are in Tamil language. Since Tamil Nadu Government staff (who enumerate the voters) are not (yet) familiar with Gloriavale-type names, there are typos in the entries. For instance ‘Holdfast’ is written as ‘Gold Fast’, ‘Faithful Stronghold’ is written as ‘Faith Full Strong’.

HinduPost Note

Gloriavale commune closed itself off from the world in 1969, and was founded by the self-styled and self-named Australian religious leader Hopeful Christian (formerly Neville Cooper) – who was convicted and jailed on three charges of indecent sexual assault of a young woman in 1995. The 500-strong community is run according to a strict interpretation of fundamental Christianity.

In 2009, Christian’s grand-daughter Lilia Tarawa escaped and wrote her memoirDaughter of Gloriavale: My life in a religious cult‘. After Christian’s death in 2018, former US Navy engineer Howard Temple has become the commune’s head. Temple has spent time in the Gloriavale off-shoot in Tamil Nadu.

In 2015, there were again allegations in New Zealand by ex-members of sexual abuse, physical punishment and brainwashing inside the commune. At that time, it was reported that Gloriavale sent some young women from its New Zealand site to the new branch in Tirunelveli, TN.

More charges of “abuse, forced separation of families, poor healthcare, unsafe working conditions for young children..a culture of domination and control” were levelled by dozens of former Glorivale members. But last year, the New Zealand Charities Services said these allegations are not “oppressive” enough for it to investigate.

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