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Indian Church must ensure equal treatment to dalit Christians

 

Monday June 09, 2014

Indian Church, Dalit Christians, Equality and Rights  
 
"Catholic Bishop Conference of India (CBCI), in its resolution passed in 1981, said that there was no place for caste-based discrimination in Christianity. This was a bad system.  The study of father Anthony Raj also proved this fact. Vatican severely criticizes caste based discrimination and untouchability. But, dalit Christians face this at every step in India. Handful of clergies controls all the resources of church."  

R L Francis

 
 

Catholic and Protestant churches, across the country, celebrated December 9, 2012, as ‘Dalit Liberation Sunday’. Catholic Bishop Conference of India (CBCI) and National Council for Churches in India (NCCI) have suddenly become worried for their Dalit brothers. Both of these churches work under Vatican and Geneva based ‘World Council of Churches’.

In October this year, Catholic Church organized a congregation, under Pope Benedict-XVI, that advocated faster evangelization considering the changing scenario of the world. It is under this theme that Indian arms of churches have thrown slogans like ‘Break the barriers – Build the world of equality’ for Dalit brothers.

 

But, reality is that church made only another attempt to put old wine in the new bottle. They demanded to include dalit Christians in the scheduled caste category on name of ‘Dalit Liberation Sunday’. They criticized Manmohan Singh government for breaking its promises in this regard.

The slogan looks pleasant from the hindsight, but reality lies in stark contrast to the ‘words’. When church has not been able to create equitable order for 2.5 to 3.0 crore dalit Christians, how can they do justice to non-Christian dalits?

The big question to the entire church organizations is, what church has done over this long period if, after conversion of several hundreds of years, their situation is as good as Hindu dalits? Despite 70 percent of total converted Christians come from dalit framework of Indian society, their role in the church establishment is almost non-existent. Discrimination is persistently increasing within the church system. Church is trying to shift the blame on Hindu system.

“Christianity does not believe in discrimination of any kind” - this was the main reason our dalit ancestors opted for this faith. Even Catholic Bishop Conference of India (CBCI), in its resolution passed in 1981, said that there was no place for caste-based discrimination in Christianity. This was a bad system.  The study of father Anthony Raj also proved this fact.

Vatican severely criticizes caste based discrimination and untouchability. But, dalit Christians face this at every step in India. Handful of clergies controls all the resources of church. Through this demand of including dalit Christians in the scheduled caste category, church has played a double game. They have successfully divereted the anger of dalit Christians towards government and, secondly, they make time and money to spend on more conversions, which will help them to firm their roots.

Welfare of dalit Christians has never been an agenda for church but a tool for the expansion of the church empire in India. This can be understood through an example. There are 168 Bishops with just four from the dalit community. There are 13,000 diocesan priests, 14000 religious priests, one-lakh nuns and 5000 brothers in India. However, merely few hundred of them are from dalit community. Recently, the only dalit priest from Delhi Catholic Archdiocese, Father William Premdas Chaudhry, has described the agony of dalit fathers in his autobiography - “An Unwanted Priest”.

There is a common feeling that church has highest volume of land after government of India and they have land in the posh colonies. In India, church has some constitutional rights. Regulation must be imposed to control church and their institutions. There are 480 colleges run by the Catholic Church only. Currently, 63 medical colleges, 9500 secondary schools, 4000 high schools, 14000 primary schools, 7500 nursery schools, 500 training schools, 900 technical schools, 263 Professional institutions, six engineering colleges and 3000 hostels, 787 hospitals, 2800 dispensaries and health centres are being run by Catholic Church. If institutes run by Protestants is included then the number goes to somewhere between 45 to 50 thousands.

Now, the question is - how many deans, teachers, professors and doctors are from dalit Christian community in this huge empire of church?  How many of them are doctors in medical colleges and hospitals? How many dalit Christians are director of social science or services institutions of church that receives crores of foreign funds for the welfare of converted Christians, mostly dalits. Church should answer all these questions while celebrating ‘Dalit Liberation Sunday’. Church should tell how many dalit Christian students get education in the church run convent schools. Reality is that church has become a business enterprise and, now a days, it is being driven by profit motive. If church has the guts, it should bring a white paper on the issue.

It is a harsh truth that, many people won’t believe, condition of Hindu dalits has considerably improved and Christian dalits are now left in this race. Hindu dalits have started ‘Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’ to help entrepreneurship among dalits. But, I want to ask why any such model for development of Christian dalits has not come up or started by the church despite having ample resources? I demand, instead of ridiculing dalits, Church should first create a system that proper rights and justice to the dalit Christians in the present system.

[Writer is the President of Poor Christians Liberation Movement (PCLM)]

 
 

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