LEADERSHIP OF DALITS LEADS TO GROWTH OF THE CHURCH
Dalits, the first dwellers of India and sons of soil were made untouchables by Aryan Invaders. The Rights of Education, Economic mobility, Social equality and political leadership were taken away from Dalits and left without Human face. The Indus Valley civilization and vedic literature portray the act of denial of rights of leadership and operation by the invaders. The constitution of India in 1950 provided all the constitutional safeguards and Rights of reservation for upward mobility and regaining the lost leadership of Dalits.
2. LEADERSHIP DENIED TO DALIT CHRISTIANS:
The reservation facilities and other constitutional privileges to Scheduled Caste Empowered them to regain all the rights. The policy of Social justice of the Government extended all the S.C Rights and privileges according to the percentage of S.C population. These Rights and Privileges for acquiring Leadership are denied to S.C converts to Christianity (Dalit Christians) by the Government of India and Catholic Church in India.
2.1. Denial by Government:
Dalit Human Rights are denied to Dalit Christians.
In Indian constitution the President was empowered by the Article 341 (1) to extend benefits to the Scheduled castes and races eligible for reservation and in this he is expected to enlist the castes only, not the religions. In contradiction to Article 341, he promulgated (Schedule Caste) Order 1950 stating in Para 3 “Notwithstanding anything contained in Para 2, no person who professes a religion different from Hinduism shall be deemed to be a member of Scheduled Caste”. The Order is Communal and anti-Constitutional because it brings in religion as a base for extending reservation. The SC Rights and Privileges under Article no. 15/4, 46, 330, 341 are totally denied to Dailt Christians due to their conversion to Christianity. Therefore this presidential order is the barrier for Leadership of Dalit Christians in the Government, Politics and Society.
2.2. Denial by the Church:
Early missionaries were following the policy of adaptation and viewing caste not a religious factor but social factor. The missionaries accommodated the practice of caste customs of the new converts for the sake of evangelization. The tolerance of caste discrimination continues even today and the Dalit leadership is denied in Indian Church.
2.3 Denial of Hierarchical leadership to untouchables:
|Catholics||Total Number||Dalit Catholics||%|
|Cardinals||6+6 = 12||Nil||Nil|
|Total Catholics||20 Millions||11.5 Millions||(65%)|
3) Assurance of Empowerment and Leadership by the Church:
Statements, Resolutions and Action Plans declared by the General Body Meetings of Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) and CRI assured empowerment and Leadership to Dalit Catholics but not fully realized in action.
3. 1. Holy Fathers' appeal for Dalit Empowerment
His Holiness John Paul II on 17 November, 2003 addressed a group of Bishops from Tamil Nadu, India, “They (Christians of SC origin) should never be segregated from other members of society. Any semblance of a caste-based prejudice in relations between Christians is a countersign to authentic human solidarity, a threat to genuine spirituality and a serious hindrance to the church’s mission of evangelization. Therefore, customs of traditions that perpetuate or reinforce caste division should be sensitively reformed so that they may become an expression of solidarity of the whole Christian community.”
3. 2. CBCI statement at Varanasi 21-28 March, 1998
“ It is a cause of sorrow and expression of our inability to live our Christian faith adequately. It is not only a denial of human dignity and equality but also against the fundamental teaching of Christ. Hence, discrimination against anybody on the basis of caste is a sin against God and humanity. The church must take a clear stand against caste discrimination and declare it a sin. This must be taught in Catechism and homilies and any form of discrimination must be completely stopped, wherever it exists, be it among the priests, in religious communities, in practices of selection of candidates for priesthood and religious life and in the sphere of administration”.
3. 3. CBCI General body Statement Feb- 2012, Bangalore:
“Recognizing the untouchablity and caste discrimination is contrary to the Gospel of Jesus. e Will root out this evil, wherever it exits and make concerted efforts to Empower Dalits. We commit ourselves to join hands with our Dalit brothers and sisters in their fight for equal rights and constitution benefits which are denied to them on the basis of religion. We assure the marginalized and weaker sections that we will do everything possible to train and equip them for leadership positions at local, regional and national levels.”
3. 4. Tamil Nadu Bishops Statement, Oct 2004:
After review of earlier declaration of 10 points program of Dalit Empowerment of 1990, Tamil Nadu Bishops conference published revised programmes for Empowerment and Dalit Leadership on 16th Oct 2004 Trichy. Action plan 5 ensures participation of Dalit in the administration and Dalit Leadership in the Church.
4. DALIT LEADERSHIP TODAY FOR POWERFUL CHURCH :
The Church should not underestimate the power of the poor and the marginalized - A silent revolution is brewing up. In the beginning it was the church of the poor and for the poor. Now the marginalized who were the centre of the church are driven to the edge of the society and the Church. Therefore today’s church must imitate Christians of early centuries, the ideal community and share everything with poor, marginalized and untouchables. Service to the poor and untouchables is service to God.
The Leadership statistics of Indian Church reviles the injustice and in equality in the Church. Leadership in the administration of the Church such as Cardinals, Arch Bishops, Bishops, Heads of the Congregations, Heads of the Institutions, Priest’s and Religious are enjoyed by the Minority Catholics of Caste in the Church. Therefore, the majority of Dalit Catholics 65 % have only less than 5% of Leadership in the administration of the Indian Church.
The Government does so much by way of reservation and affirmative action of social justice by giving Scheduled Caste (SC) Constitutional right of reservation and other statutory privileges according to the percentage of SC population. The similar gesture of Social Justice is not followed by the Indian Church for Dalit Christians. On the Contrary the practice by the authorities and hierarchy in the Church, the Congregations and Institutions are largely the negation of whatever the government is doing for the other Scheduled Castes Communities in India. There is no policy of social justice and sign of solidarity in the sharing of leadership with untouchables in the Church.
4.1. Promotion of Dalit Leadership is the sign of God’s Kingdom:
Promotion of Dalit Leadership in all the levels of the Church is realization of the kingdom of God in India and it is the appropriate response of Indian Church to the call of the Holy Father Pope Francis “Church of Poor for the Poor.”
Indian Church is being appreciated for its Contribution for the Educational development of the Indian Society. The Educational Mission of the Churchenabled the beneficiaries to acquire leadership in the Church, Society and Politics. Promotion of leadership is the sign of recognition of the particular Class or Caste. The Faith and Sacrificial life of Dalit Christians should be recoganised properly by the Heads of the Church.
The Church in India is facing many Challenges in all the levels. Secularism, Consumerism, Globalization, Hindu Fundamentalism, Loss of Minority Rights, denial of Schedule Caste Rights by Government etc. Prevent the growth of the Church in India. Mainly the caste discrimination and denial of due leadership to Dalit Converts to Christianity are the barriers for Evangelisation and future growth of the Church. Dalit Community is the only hope of the Church. The Scope of extension of the Church in India can be realized only by extension of leadership to Dalit Christians.
Dalit Catholics make the Indian Church. Therefore Leaders and authorities in Vatican and in India are bound to extend leadership to Dalit Community for glorious future of the Church.
- Rev. Fr. Dr. S. Lourduswamy