Card Gracias celebrates Christmas Mumbai with Dalit migrants
by Nirmala Carvalho

Many Christian “untouchables” live in Cheeta Camp, a slum in the Trombay area. The president of India’s Catholic bishops met 21 families, including many children. The Church supports the rights of the Dalits and the end of the caste system.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Card Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), celebrated Christmas with prayers, games with children and gifts.

On Christmas morning, he met 21 families (88 people), Dalit migrants in Mumbai from Tamil Nadu who live in Cheeta Camp, a slum in Trombay, a suburb in eastern Mumbai.

The meeting took place at the archbishop's residence. The prelate spent two hours in their company, asking parents if their children were studying, and finally inviting Dalit Christians to spread the values ​​of the Gospel where they live.

The cardinal is not new to such initiatives. In past years, he celebrated the anniversary of the birth of Christ with tribal people, with people who lost their homes to fire, and with rag pickers.

"The joy of Christmas was tangibly present,” said Sister Arina Gonsalves, who attended the event. “People went home with a smile on their faces, knowing that they would be able to celebrate that day in a special way with the members of their families and others.”

The cardinal handed out gifts, sweets and some money to all those who came. He “looked really happy, relaxed and refreshed for being among the poor and the marginalised, who are close to his heart".

In India, the caste system has been abolished by the Constitution. However, discrimination is still very rooted in both society and the Indian Church.

In order to overcome the marginalisation inside the Church of those formerly known as "untouchables", the CBCI adopted an action plan for the inclusion of the Dalits.

Since 2007, the Church has also celebrated each year Dalit Liberation Day on the second Sunday of November, to promote the rights of Christian Dalits and the right to practise freely one’s religion.