By DCD Reporter

Alternative Front for Dalit Christian Liberation (AFDCL) and the National Dalit Christian Watch (NDCW) Tamilnadu Chapter commemorated the 130th birth anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar by organizing a Webinar on Dr.B.R.Ambedkar and Dalit Christians on April 14, 2021.

Dr. Ambedkar cannot be coined as a leader for Dalits for he is an international leader who promoted equality and dignity. He was a multi-faceted personality, a jurist, social activist, feminist, and lawmaker. He started the foundation of the Reserve Bank of India. “Christians in India know about the Pope, Bishops and Priests. But we also need to know about Dr. Ambedkar,” said Advocate V. Baskaran, Convener of the AFDCL and NDCW Tamilnadu Chapter. “We got the freedom to practice, profess and propagate the religion of our choice, only because of Dr. Ambedkar.”

Dalit Christians form the majority among Christians in India, both in the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches. But Dalit Christians are discriminated against in Governance, and at the Institutional and Parish levels in Churches in India, whatever the denomination. However it is more visible in the Catholic Church.

Out of 30,300 Priests in the Catholic Church, only 1200 are Dalits; out of 188 bishops, only 11 are Dalits; out of 31 Archbishops only 2 are Dalit Christians; and there are no cardinals from the Dalit community at all.Many Dalit and social activists have raised this issue but it has not reached the hierarchy which prevents the Dalit Christians to be in the decision-making body of the Church, said Dr. Richard Devadoss, Convener of National Dalit Christian Watch (NDCW), a National Platform which is engaging with the Churches against discrimination of Dalit Christians within the Church.  

There is increasing demand for a separate Rite for Dalit Christians as the Catholic Church has 23 rites including Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara. Dalits have a unique culture and tradition and their faith in God is exemplary.If Dalit Christians are not given equal space, equality and dignity in the Catholic Church; then having a separate Rite is the only option.

“Vatican Council II has paved the way for inculturation in the Catholic Church and having a separate rite for Dalits will help us to celebrate our faith and originality. Going in the correct direction, the Dalit Christians have given away all that they had to defend their faith and it is a dire need for the Church to listen to them,” said Dr. Devadoss.

Dalit Christians are inclusive by nature. But dominant communites are basically exclusive. The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church is over dominated with those belonging to the dominant communites both within this country and at theVatican as well.Therefore merely ‘raising our voice may not bring any result as they would go by the Canon Law as well.They will not give. But we will not stop demanding our rights including a separate Rite for Dalit Christians” said Rev. Dr. Vincent Manoharan, founder of NDCW.

“We need to read about Dr. Ambedkar everyday like reading the Bible. We should read the volumes of Dr. Ambedkar and sensitize people. Dalit Christians are demanding their rights for so long but they have been denied,” he added.  

(Updated on April 17, 2021)


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