Participants from across India reviewed the struggles, social status of dalit Christians.
125 participants from across the country took part in the Jan. 27-29 seminar organized by the Scheduled Caste/Backward Class (SC/BC) office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India in Bengaluru.
The seminar was based on the theme- Dalit Christian March Toward Equality and Justice-A Socio-Ecclesial Engagement.
The inaugural session was presided over by Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bangalore. He insisted on giving equal status to the dalit Christians in the Catholic Church and society.
In the Keynote Bishop Neethinathan of Chengleput, also the Chairperson of the CBCI Office for SC/BC, insisted that the mission of Jesus was for the poor and the marginalized and Church itself should come forward to render justice to the Dalit Christians.
Brinda Adige in her speech said that the Dalit Catholic women are slaves among slaves. As Dalit Catholic women, their dignity and honor are exploited by others including the church, she added.
Fr. Devasagayaraj, Secretary to the CBCI office for SC/BC, while explaining the dynamics of the seminar said that the objectives of the seminar are to analyze and understand the status of the Dalit Christians within the Church and in the wider society.
He said the seminar aims to review the struggles of the Dalit Christians for dignity, rights and faith; to find ways and means to bring together Dalit leaders, priest and nuns as well as the other leaders of the Church to undertake seriously concrete programs of action for the emancipation of the Dalit Christians;- to arrive at concrete programs of actions based on this ecclesial and social engagement.
Fr. X D Selvaraj presented a paper on “The Faith Struggles of Dalit Christians in the Indian Church.”
He said that untouchability is abolished by article 17 of the Indian Constitution and punishable under law and those who practice it should be also punished canonically, since it is against faith and morals.
Maria Arul Raja spoke on “Dalit Empowerment through rereading Culture and history”. He said that the culture of Dalits is communitarian liberation.
“Their culture is that of equality, love and sharing. We should continue to cultivate this aspect of communitarian liberation. Dalit culture also gives prominence to female deities hence their culture is to respect the honor and dignity of women. Their culture is not to enslave others and neither to yield themselves to be enslaved,” he said.
Bishop Derek Fernandes of Karwar, also chairperson of SC/ST commission of Karnataka region, in his homily persuaded that the Dalits should continue their fight for justice without losing hope and the perseverance of fight strengthens them.
Fr. S. Lourduswamy in his paper “Present situation of Dalit Christians” highlighted that the Dalits form 65 per cent of the total Catholics in India and the statements and the promises by the CBCI are yet to be realized. He insisted that Dalits should be recognized as a separate cultural people with in the Catholic Church.