NEW DELHI, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- A prominent Hindu leader in India was criticized Tuesday for suggesting Mother Teresa's humanitarianism was aimed at converting India's poor to Christianity.
Mohan Bhagwat, leader of Rashtriya Sawyamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu nationalist group, made his remarks Monday at the opening of an orphanage and home for poor women in the Indian state of Rajasthan. "There are no services like Mother Teresa's here," Mr. Bhagwat said, noting the Catholic nun's work among India's poor had "a motive behind it, that those who are rendered the service should become Christian. It is their question if somebody wants to convert and make someone Christian or not, but if that is done under the garb of service, then that service is devalued."
Mother Teresa devoted her life to the poor and sick of Kolkata, then called Calcutta, receiving global admiration. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and died in 1997. The Catholic Church beatified her, the third of four steps leading to sainthood, in 2003.
Bhagwat's comments came as India deals with attacks on Christian churches, and campaigns of Hindu nationalists urging those who converted to other faiths to return to Hinduism. The tension was noted last week by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose Bharatiya Janata party has ties to Bhagwat's organization; Modi said India believes "not only in religious tolerance, but we accept all religions as true."
Other political leaders have demanded Baghwat's apology. Sunita Kuma, of the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa's religious order in Kolkata, commented, "Mother believed in all faith, there was never any attempt to convert, the tradition continues even today. We are not worried about the RSS chief's comment, we have nothing to hide, we live in peace."