11/05/2018, 15.51
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Indian Church to mark Dalit Liberation Sunday on 11 November

by Nirmala Carvalho

Held since 2007, the initiative is promoted by the Office for Caste and Disadvantaged Tribes of the CBCI. The former "untouchables" suffer from discrimination both in the Church and society.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – India's Catholics and Protestants will celebrate Dalit Liberation Sunday on 11 November.

The event is organised by the Office for Caste and Disadvantaged Tribes of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India (CBCI) and the National Council of Churches in India, which represents the country’s Protestant and Orthodox Churches.

The initiative has been held since 2007 and as of last year, it falls on the second Sunday of November. The theme of this edition – "As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15) – was chosen to mark the 10th anniversary of anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal, Odisha (Orissa).

For Fr Raj, secretary of the Office for Caste and Disadvantaged Tribes, the event is "a clarion call to the whole Christian community to renew our faith, and to awaken our consciousness to be the voice of the voiceless and to stand with the vulnerable Dalits in the society.”

The aim of the day is to draw attention to discrimination against Christian Dalits, both within the Church and in society.

“Our constitution gives us the freedom to profess to practice and to propagate one’s religion,” Fr Raj says. “But in reality, our Dalit sisters and brothers are denied the Scheduled Castes rights just because they convert to Christianity, thus denying their religious freedom.”

In India caste divisions were abolished under the Constitution, but discrimination is still rooted in society. What is more, under the Constitution (Scheduled tribes) Order, 1950, Christian and Muslim Dalits are denied access to reserved jobs and schools, which are instead guaranteed for Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh Dalits.

In order to counter the marginalisation of the former "untouchables" in Church institutions, the CBCI also approved an action plan in 2016 for the inclusion of the Dalits.

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