PROBLEMS & STRUGGLES
Persecutions in the Archdiocese of Pondicherry
UPDATES AT ERAIYUR TRAGEDY
Justice Denied, Delayed and Buried to the Dalit Christians of Eraiyur in the Archdiocese of Pondicherry
The Holy Father Pope John Paul II in his recent address asked his fellow Bishops and Priests:
"Open wide your hears to the ever increasing plight and urgent needs for our less fortunate brothers and sisters throughout the world."
In his Lenten message, he spoke that "those who are lonely, those on the margins of the society, the hungry, the victims of violence, those who have no hope must be able to experience in the church's loving care and tenderness of the heavenly father."
The Catholic Bishops Conferrence of India (CBCI) has repeatedly appealed to the community not to yield to the caste culture within the church. Our bishops have admonised us to raise above the prejudices and hatred. Do we listen the teachings of our own bishops?
"The 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 ...... 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."
The Commission for Scheduled Castes/Tribes and Backward Classes of the Catholic Bishops Conferrence of India has vehementaly condemned any sort of caste discrimination within the church
"Practice of discrimination in any form in the place of worship, graveyard and in the community should be abolished with time-bound action by appointing a monitoring team which identifies places and forms of discrimination practiced in the sub-stations and main stations of parishes, religious institutions and eradicates this sinful practice with the cooperation of all sections of people, the presbyterium and the religious communities."
Identify cemeteries which are wholly or in part reserved for a section of believers based on caste. If they cannot be thrown open to all, then arrange for new common cemeteries for all the groups.
Wherever the practice of having a separate hearse for each caste is in operation, ensure that a common hearse (TUMBA) is used by all with no reservation or distinction.
The celebration of Jubilee 2000 may be 'postponed' until true brotherhood and equality is practised by all the faithful of a parish.
HAVE WE LISTENED TO THE APPEAL OF THE HOLY FATHER, POPE JOHN PAUL II AND TO THE APPEAL OF OUR OWN BISHOPS IN INDIA?
What drove the upper caste Christians and the upper caste Priests blind to the gospel truth? Why did they fail to treat their fellow christians as equals? How has the Christian Community scumbed to the caste culture?
The reports from Pondicherry have indicate that the diocesan authorities (who are upper caste priests and men) have given a clear mandate to the upper caste Christians that there was nothing wrong about their practice of caste discrimination within the church. The church of Pondicherry has miserably faild to condemn this inhuman and cruel form of injustice. Power and money have denied basic and natural justice to the Dalit Christians at Eraiyur. Justice was denied and buried to them. The authorities did not want to embarass their own upper caste men and women by invesigating this case. They have not taken this issue very seriously to examine why the upper caste Christians and some upper caste priests humiliated the Archbishop of Pondicherry who went to attend the funeral of a dalit mother.
The upper caste Christians at Eraiyur have told the Police authorities at Ulunderpet and to some reporters that they would continue their age-old caste discrimination in their parish. They have also indicated that their own pastor Rev.Jacob, a Vanniar priest and some other caste priests support them unconditionally. Therefore, the dalit Christians at Eraiyur will continue to bear the oppression of caste discrimination within the church for some more years. In these circumstances, the Archbishop had no choice other than allowing the people to continue the caste discrimination within the church.
The blood of caste is proved to be thicker than the water of baptism. The power of caste is more powerful than the power of the gospel. Eraiyur has a history of two hundred years of Christianity. This incident suggests that their faith has not taken a deep root. It is rooted in the culuture of caste and not in the culture of Christ. They proved that they are strong in social traditions and not in Christian traditions. They are more faithful to caste than to Christ.
This episode at Eraiyur has brought a shame and disgrace to the church of India. It also challenges our own conscience: our loyalty to Caste or to Christ; our choice to Caste or to Christ. Unless we receive the light of Christ, we cannot dispel darkness. When we refuse light, we love darkness.
We are formed in the image of of culture. this image must be transformed by word and sacraments. That will reform our ways. After reformation comes transformation. You are touched by Christ. There is no room for Christ when power, money take over this place. Jesus emptied himself to reach others. We need to empty ourselves to reach out others. We are full of prejudices.
The reports from Pondicherry Archdiocese indicates that Archbishop and his counsellors have decided to cover up the Eraiyur incident which is a glaring evidence of the caste discrimination within the Catholic church. The Police Officer of Ulunderpet called both the Caste Christians and the Dalit Christian of Eraiyur and led a dialogue. The Eraiyur Caste Christians have categorically stated that they would not consider the dalit Christians as equal them. They have upheld that the blood of caste is much thicker than the water of Baptism. The dalit Christians could not get justice in the society. In the Church, the Archbishop and his counsellors were more worried about the spiritual needs of the the upper caste Christians. Justice is denied again to the Dalit Christians by the Archbishop who portrayed himself as the Champion of the Dalits in the past. He was humiliated at Eraiyur by the stoning of the upper caste people at the funeral. Yet, he has realised that the needs of the upper caste people are more important than the needs of Christ. Justice has been purchased by the diocese at the cost of dalit blood as exactly Judas purchased the blood of Jesus for 30 silver piece.
Christ is slowly disappearing from our diocese. The bishop is not touched by the spirit. Person who sees through the eyes of the caste will not... Unless you are touched by Christ, you will be the same person. Repent, Give up the past. Be born again. People who have not met Jesus have the same mind, the mind of the caste. Unless you renew your mind, you cannot see the world differently.