//NDCW organizes a roundtable conference for Dalit Christian intellectuals.

NDCW organizes a roundtable conference for Dalit Christian intellectuals.

By Robancy A Helen

The National Dalit Christian Watch (NDCW) is a watchdog organization that identifies and addresses caste discrimination within the church, by the general public, and by the state through fact-finding, reporting, and public hearings.

Twelve members who are leaders in the church, social activists, and advocates felt it was necessary to address these problems and end the long-standing caste discrimination practices.

Dr. Manohar Chandra Prasad, a Dalit theologian and author of many books, says, Dalit intellectualism is the pain and pathos of Dalits, and that makes them intellectuals. The attempt to gather Dalit Christian intellectuals is a conscious one.

Speaking of the status of Dalit Christian women in the church in India, most of the women have no name in the Bible, though women have led churches in the Old and New Testaments.

Dalit women were victims, yet they are survivors, said Cynthia Stephen, a renowned feminist and Christian politician from Karnataka.

Missionaries educated the Dalit women. Women were taxed for their bodies, which is the epitome of injustice, added Ms. Stephen.

Hindutva is a political ideology of the socio-economic elite of the country, using the myth of perpetual violence. If there is any Christian community that is persecuted for their faith, it is the Dalit Christian community. 

Dalit Christianity is a failed political project in India. Christianity is a religion of hierarchy, and it needs to be reoriented, says Dr. Y.T. Vinayaraj, Director of the Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society (CISRS), while speaking about the political participation of Dalit Christians. 

Dr. Pauline Priya, the principal of St. Joseph College of Law, Bangalore, focused on the socio-economic status of Dalit Christians. 

According to the YouTube data, the Catholic Church is the second largest landowner in the world, and Dalit Christians are aboriginal. They are landless, resourceful, and deprived of all their resources. 

Out of the 25 million Christian population in India, 18 million are Catholics. 8% are tribals, 25% are caste sutras, and 67% are Dalits. 

In the 21% of the Catholic population, 81% of the bishops are Sutras, 21% are tribals, and 5% are Dalits,” said Dr. Selvaraj Arulnathan, Director of the Indian Social Institute, Bangalore.

The year 2008 was the most violent year for Christians in India. 

Over 150 Christians were killed in the Kandhamal riot. Dalit Christians suffer more at the hands of the church than the state, according to Arulnathan.

The Dalit Rite has its own culture and celebrates the faith of Dalit Christians. Eucharistic service should be performed, not merely lip service. The Dalit Christians need compassionate justice. Lumen Gentium talks about the emergence of the Churches in communion with the Catholic Church, and the Indo-Dalit Rite will be the first Rite emerging from India.

Canonically, the Indo-Dali Rite is possible, affirms Dr. Maria Arul Raja, the internationally well-known theologian. 

“I liberate you; therefore, I am. Never become a slave, and never enslave others. Dalit ideology is an inclusive ideology. Sacraments perform justice,” adds Maria Arul Raja.

NDCW came up with the resolution to form the Dalit Christian Intellectual Forum, a resource center, and to continue to address caste-based discrimination in the church. 

There are 40 participants representing Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Delhi.