Indian Christians stand with vulnerable Dalits

Indian Christians stand with vulnerable Dalits

Dalit Liberation Sunday reinforces the message that caste discrimination is unacceptable

Bijay Kumar Minj Bijay Kumar Minj, New Delhi Published: November 15, 2021 09:40 AM GMT
Indian Christians stand with vulnerable Dalits
A poster promoting Dalit Liberation Sunday 2021.

Indian Christians of all denominations observed Dalit Liberation Sunday to show their solidarity with Christians of Dalit origin who face discrimination.

The theme of the Nov. 14 event was “God says NO to caste discrimination”.

The Office for Scheduled Castes-Backward Classes of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) and the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), which comprises Protestant and Orthodox churches, urged the Christian community to remember Dalit Christians who face discrimination.

“The celebration of Dalit Liberation Sunday is a clarion call to the whole Christian community to renew our faith and to awaken our consciousness to be the voice of the voiceless and to stand with the vulnerable Dalits in society,” Father Vijay Kumar Nayak, secretary of the Indian bishops’ Office for Dalits and Lower Classes, said in a statement.

“We are united in the same spirit of God to love and treat others with brotherly and sisterly concern.”

Dalit Liberation Sunday has been celebrated every year since 2007 by the CBCI in collaboration with the NCCI.

No one can serve Christ and caste: the practice of caste is sin and untouchability a crime

The NCCI has for decades announced a zero-tolerance approach to caste discrimination in any form.

“No one can serve Christ and caste: the practice of caste is sin and untouchability a crime. This affirmation has been the driving force for the churches’ campaign against caste discrimination,” the NCCI said in a Nov. 14 statement.

The struggle of Dalit Christians and Muslims seeking scheduled caste status started after a presidential order removed the privileges given to scheduled caste converts who were not Hindus.

But even though the privileges were restored to Sikhs (1956) and to Buddhists (1990), Christians and Muslims, who have been pressing successive governments for several years, have not been granted privileges and there seems little hope for them.

Different commissions appointed by the government have clearly recommended that Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims should be included on the scheduled caste list.

Dalits, or untouchables, are the lowest caste within Hindu society. Huge numbers of Dalits have converted to Christianity and Islam over the decades, though in reality the religions offer limited protection from societal prejudice.

The word Dalit means “trampled upon” in Sanskrit and refers to all groups once considered untouchable and outside the four-tier Hindu caste system. Government data shows 201 million of India’s 1.2 billion people belong to this socially deprived group. Some 60 percent of India’s 25 million Christians are also of Dalit or tribal origin.

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