FROM THE EDITOR
DALITS IN THE MEDIA
CBCI Meeting at Varanasi
March 21-28, 1998
Message for Liberation and Development of Dalit
Role of the Church In India Today
. We, the Bishops of the
Catholic Church in India assembled for our General Body Meeting at Varanasi,
considered as the holy city by millions of our fellow citizens, reflected
on the role of the Church in India as she stands at the threshold of the
third millennium. True to her mission as continuation of Christ in the
vast sub-continent, the Church realizes that "the joy and hope, the
grief and anguish of the men of our time, especially of those who are
poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish
of the followers of Christ as well". (G.S.1).
The Bishops, who are the ministers of Christ and servant leaders of His
Church, became keenly aware of the fact that, in following their Master
and Lord, they must cherish deep solidarity with their brothers and sisters
in India. As bearers of the message of salvation for all the peoples of
this land, united in Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, they press
towards the coming of a new society, transformed by a civilization of
love. Their reflections made them release that the Spirit is calling the
Christian community in India to a New Way of Being Church. The elements
that constitute this new ecclesial
image can be spelled out along the following lines.
Church in India particularly in recent years, has been actively involved
in denouncing caste system and discrimination against the Dalits.
Further, it has taken positive measures for their development. However,
we have to admit that the situation still remain a serious concern. The
prevalence of the caste system, not only in society but also in some parts
of the Church in India even at the close of the 20th
century, is a matter of shame and disgrace to all of us. 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 who was a friend of the
outcasts of His time, and freely mixed with them. He came to tell human
kind that we are brothers and sisters having God as our common Father.
The core of the Gospel consist in this perfect reconciliation and fellowship.
The early Christians manifested their faith in Christ by' being a community
of love without discrimination
of any member based on race, language or economic or social status. If
our Christian communities are divided and discriminated on the basis of
caste we cannot affirm in truthfulness that the Gospel has touched our
life, and that we are the disciples of Christ even if we celebrate our
worship devoutly and proclaim our faith correctly. What India needs is
precisely this witness of Christian love. Our evangelising
mission loses its efficacy if our Christian communities forget this image
which is specific to Christianity, for Jesus said "By this everyone
will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another"
35). Hence, discrimination against anybody on the basis of caste is a
sin against God and humanity. This needs to be proclaimed from the house
tops so that the caste system will be removed from the Christian community
totally as part of our preparation for Yesu
listening to what the spirit was telling them the bishops recommended
the following measures to be implemented in all dioceses:
||First of all
there needs to be a faith-based vision that enables us to see Jesus
in the poor, the Dalits
and Tribals so that
there is a change in our attitude towards them. This must become evident
to them in our policies and practices and day-to-day interactions.
to consciences, train, organise
and empower the poor, the Dalits
and the tribals must
be given top priority in our social apostolate.
||We should make
every effort to liberate the poor from the clutches of dishonest practices
by upholding the values of honesty and dignity in public life. We
should refuse to collaborate in any way with those who indulge in
corrupt practices of bribery, discriminatory favoritism etc.
||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, whatever it exists, be N
among the priests, in religious communities, in practices of selection
of candidates for priesthood and religious life and in the sphere
of administration. We propose this as a goal to be set in motion powerfully
and immediately so that we can present to the Lord and proclaim to
the world that we are fully reconciled and transformed Christian community
at the down of the third millennium.
||Our liturgy should
challenge us to build relationships as members of one family, foster
fellowship and solidarity leading to active concern and equality.
There should be no sign of any discrimination in places of worship,
cemeteries etc. Our liturgy should also challenge us to face the realities
of the world with a sense of mission. The World that we celebrate
should become [He-giving event for the world. Our celebrations of
popular devotions such as novenas
and prayer sessions should have a mission thrust.
services must cater increasingly to the poor and there must be reservations
both in admission and in employment for the Dalits
example of the first Christians who shared generously with the poor,
we should make personal and institutional sacriftes,
whatever they may cost us, for the poor, the Dalits
and the tribals of today.
Only then will we become truly the Church of the poor. This is the
New Way of Being Church that we want to usher in as we enter the third
Point Programme For the Integrated Development of Dalit
||In places of
worship and burial grounds Christians of Scheduled Caste Origin (CSCO)
should be treated on a footing or equality and there should be no
should be created in the dioceses to enable CSCO
to join seminaries, convents
and religious congregations in numbers.
order to create leadership in their ranks, CSCO
should be encouraged to become members
of Parish Councils, Parish Finance Committees, Diocesan Pastoral Councils,
Social Service Societies and other Church related organizations, and
entrusted with responsible positions.
||In matters of
admission to Catholic Teacher Training and Industrial Schools, preference
should be given to the students belonging to the CSCO.
coaching classes should be conducted to improve the educational
standards of the students who
are weak in their studies to enable them to improve their performance.
be given CSCO in matters
of appointment in the educational institutions, Social Service Societies
and other Church sponsored organisations
the Diocesan Social Service Societies, developmental projects should
be exclusively designed
to promote the economic development of the
CSCO and members of these should be chosen to involve actively in
the execution of such projects and in the training programmes connected
high education, particularly technical and professional education
among CSCO, the Diocesan
and Religious Congregations should jointly create a Scholarship Fund
as a source of encouragement to deserving students.
should be created in each diocese immediately to monitor the
programmes meant for these people.
the CSCO struggle
to obtain their rights and privileges from the Central and State
governments the Church in India should actively support their programme
in this regard.
of the Church in India
efforts made by the Church in India to uplift the oppressed Dalit
Christians Community at various levels have given us a ray of hope. Regional
and Bishop's Conferences have declared the dignity and equality of Dalit
Christians, have repeatedly condemned the practice of untouchablity
and discrimination as sin and have appealed to the Christian community
to live in equality and brotherhood. The implementation of 10 points programme
for empowerment, and formation of leadership at different levels includes
intensive coaching for employment, training eligible candidates for Indian
Administrative Services to commit themselves to the development of the
oppressed and to a relentless struggle to demand equal rights to Dalit
Christians from the Government. Many students who have been trained by
the commission for SC/ST/BC
have been secured administrative and managerial jobs in the states.