By Matters India Reporter
New Delhi, November 2, 2018: The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India – Office for Dalits and Backward Classes (CBCI Office of SC/BC) and the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) will jointly mark the Dalit Liberation Sunday (DLS) on November 11 nationwide.
The theme “As for Me and My Household, We will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15)” is taken on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Kandhamal violence (2008 – 2018).
“The celebration of DLS is a clarion call to the whole Christian community in India 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 Devasagayaraj M. Zackarias, CBCI office of SC/BC secretary, told Matters India.
“We are united in the same spirit of God to love and treat others with brotherly and sisterly concern. The Indian Constitution gives us the freedom to profess to practice and to propagate one’s religion. But in reality our Dalit sisters and brothers are denied the Scheduled Castes rights just because they convert to Christianity thus denying their religious freedom,” he added.
On the 10th anniversary of the violence against Christians in Kandhamal disgtrict of Odisha state, the Church admires the Christians who sacrificed their lives, land, houses, property, and livelihood for the sake of their faith. They sacrificial blood is the seed of faith.
“We also pray for the 7 innocents who are in jail for the past 10 years waiting for justice,” the CBCI official said.
Dalit brethren are not only economically poor but politically powerless and socially outcastes. The man-made caste system which remains a social stigma throughout generations has divided them that they are not able to feel and experience the real presence of God in their lives.
“God created all to be His loving children and to become Christ – like. But in reality we remain strangers to God by discriminating our own fellow members. The Dalit Christians not only experience discrimination within the Church but also by the State and the society,” Father Zackarias said.
The CBCI continues to take necessary steps to eradicate the caste based discrimination that exists in the Church. In this regard a policy for empowering Dalits was released in December 2016 which declares that ‘Caste discrimination is a grave social sin.’
Dalits are at the bottom of Hinduism’s social hierarchy. For centuries, Dalits have battled discrimination ranging from segregation and ostracism to violence. Hindus are traditionally grouped into thousands of castes, their membership determined by birth.
“DLS is an opportunity to give hope, to empower and to uplift the lives of Dalits. The narrations of Prophet Elijah who was sent to the widow who was starving and the widow whom Jesus praises for her generosity give us the hope that God is on the side of the poor and the marginalized. Let us come together to take part in creating a peaceful and harmonious society to live, love and share together,” the priest explained.
So far there is hardly any progress with regard to the case impleaded by the CBCI represented by the CBCI office for SC/BC in the Supreme Court of India (I.A.No.21/13 in W.P.No.180/04) challenging the validity of Constitution (Scheduled Caste) order 1950 paragraph 3 which excludes Christians and Muslims of Scheduled Caste Origin from the Scheduled Caste list thus denying freedom of religion.
“We hope to get justice from the Supreme Court based on the merit of the case,” Father Zackarias said.
DLS is celebrated every year since 2007 by CBCI in collaboration with the reformative churches, NCCI, which is the Ecumenical Forum of the Protestant and Orthodox Churches in India.
“From 2017 onwards with the approval of the CBCI Standing Committee, we celebrate it on the second Sunday of November,” said Father Zackarias.
Christians form 28 million or just 2.3 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people but more than 60 percent of them come from Dalit and tribal communities.