The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Missionaries of Charity: Tying Infants to Beds is "Educational"

By Sujoy Dhar, Kolkata

Responding to a British TV film showing physically challenged infants tied to beds, the Missionaries of Charity (MoC) says it takes the steps sparingly and only for the child's safety and "educational purposes".

"Physical restraints are used only when absolutely necessary for the safety of the child and for educational purposes for limited periods of time," said Sister Nirmala, superior general of MoC, the order founded by Nobel Laureate Mother Teresa in 1950.

In its programme to be telecast Monday, Britain's Five News said it had uncovered "serious shortcomings" at a care centre run by MoC in Kolkata.

British TV reporter Donal MacIntyre secretly filmed many of the 59 children aged between six months and 12 years at Daya Dan, a care centre set up a year after Mother Teresa's death in 1997, "tied by their ankles to their cots at night, restrained while being fed and left up to 20 minutes on the toilet by their care givers".

Sister Nirmala told IANS: "Our homes continue to be simple, providing immediate and effective service to the poorest of poor. We continue to provide all that is necessary for the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs of those under care and would continue to improve the quality of our care."

"We thank you for bringing to our notice what you consider lapses in the quality of care and hygiene in this home. We value constructive criticism and admit there is room for improvement," she said.

She said only those who work day in and day out with these 59 very special children really know both the demands to total self-forgetfulness as well as the joy at the littlest response and improvement in these children.

"Dedication, love and care is something money cannot buy and this is the reason our dearest Mother Teresa encouraged people to give not just out of their abundance but their hearts of love and their hands to serve."

Sister Paula Marie, who runs Daya Dan, said: "We would not do any such thing at all for no specific reason."

"These are cases where a child has been found putting food into the eyes, face and mouth with both hands, leaving caregivers with no alternatives to tie his or her hands with a piece of cloth for the time the child is fed."

Journalist Donal MacIntyre dubbed what he filmed at Daya Dan as unacceptable behaviour saying: "This is unacceptable in Russia, that is unacceptable in Romania, that is unacceptable in England - and it is unacceptable in Kolkata."

MacIntyre said: "Missionaries of Charity received millions and millions of pounds in donation and they must do better."

MOC runs more than 750 care centres across the world tending the orphans, sick, destitute and dying.

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