The CBCI Office for Scheduled Castes/Backward Classes is behind the initiative. India’s caste system is rooted in society and Church hierarchies. For Bishop Neethinathan, discrimination has divided Indians for generations.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Mgr Anthonisamy Neethinathan, bishop of Chingleput (Tamil Nadu) and president of the Office for Scheduled Castes/Backward Classes of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), is behind Dalit Liberation Sunday, a celebration for both Indian Catholics and Protestants that will be held on the second Sunday of November, 12 November this year.
‘Religious Freedom of the Dalits’ will be the theme of the event, which “is a clarion call to the whole Christian community to renew our faith, to be the voice of the voiceless and to stand by those who are made vulnerable in the society,” Mgr Neethinathan says in a press release.
According to the bishop, "We are united in the same spirit of God to show love and treat others with brotherly concern. India is a cradle of many civilizations and religions. Our constitution gives us the freedom to choose the religion we want to practice. But in reality, our Dalit sisters and brothers are denied the Scheduled Castes rights just because they convert into Christianity."
In India, the Constitution abolishes caste divisions, but discrimination against Dalits (once known as untouchables) is still rooted in society.
For the president of the Office, Dalits "are not only economically poor but politically powerless and socially outcastes. The man-made caste system which remains a social stigma throughout generations has divided us, so that we are not able to experience the real presence of God in our lives. God the father created us to be His loving children and to become Christ like. But in reality, we remain strangers to God by discriminating our own fellow members of the mystical body of Christ."
The bishop admits that Dalits are discriminated not only in society but also within the Church herself. Indeed, in order to overcome their marginalisation in the latter, the CBCI last year approved an action plan for the inclusion of Dalits.
Mgr Neethinathan also explains that the bishops filed a complaint with the Indian Supreme Court to challenge the validity of the 1950 Constitutional Order that excludes Christian and Muslim Dalits from quotas in jobs and education, guaranteed instead to Hindu, Buddhist, and Sikh Dalits.
As he urges all Christians to join the celebrations, the bishop writes that “Dalit Liberation Sunday is an opportunity to give hope, to empower and uplift our brethren. It has to be celebrated with hope as the prudent virgins expecting the coming of Jesus Christ.”