04/06/2018, 12.30
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Bishops of Orissa: Dalit emancipation an 'ethical imperative'

by Purushottam Nayak

In 2016 the Indian Church approved an action plan for former "untouchables". The Regional Conference prepares a program to make it effective in all parishes. A permanent committee created. In India, 37% of Dalits live below the poverty line.

Bhubaneswar (AsiaNews) - Strengthening the Christian dalits of Orissa, outlining a strategy to implement the Dalit action plan approved by the Indian Catholic Church (CBCI) in 2016. With these objectives the Council of Catholic Bishops of Orissa (Ocbc) met on April 4th. The local Church leaders discussed the discrimination that former "untouchables" face in everyday life, including in the Catholic community.

The meeting took place at the Xavier Management Institute in Bhubaneswar. In all, around 80 participants represented provincial and regional religious orders, delegates from various congregations, both male and female. Those present stressed the need to apply the bishops' plan at the state, diocesan level and in the individual parishes.

PA Selvam, director of the Indian Social Institute of Bangalore, said: "The CBCI's policy for the emancipation of Dalits strives to ensure that all sectors of society equally feel the drive to rejoice in love, mercy and of the compassion of the Creator, who made us all in his image and likeness ".

Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, called for " Let us work jointly for the empowerment of dalits and tribals in the state as the Christian minority is attacked, Mother Mary staue is beheaded and Church is vandalized in Rourkella recently " .

Msgr Sarat Chandra Nayak, bishop of Berhampur (Orissa) and national president of the Office for I dalit and the disadvantaged caste of the CBCI, added: " Our commitment and dedication to work together in a transparent way can bring great change and empowerment of dalit Christians in the state ".

Fr. Bijoy Kumar Nayak, provincial superior of the North Indian Province of the Congregation of the Mission (CM), maintains that we must “ begin with mission of Jesus. The spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor ".

The priest reports some data: in India 37% of the Dalits live below the poverty line; 54% of Dalit children are undernourished, 12% die before five years, 21% are severely underweight. The worst situation regards Dalit women: 37.8% of them have a very low literacy rate; 45% can neither read nor write; women suffer double the discrimination based on caste and gender. Moreover, one third of Dalit families live in inadequate homes, public health workers refuse to visit them; 27.6% of Dalits are prevented from entering a police station, 37.8% of children sit in separate places in public schools.

"To make sure that the programs are successful", said Msgr. Niranjan Sualsingh, bishop of Sambalpur, "we must walk together, coordinate and form monitoring groups".

At the end of the meeting a permanent committee was appointed composed by Msgr. Nayak, the dott. Vincent Monaharan, general secretary of the National Dalit Christian Watch of New Delhi, Fr. A. Selvam and Sr. Gemma Barla.

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