05/10/2017, 17.38
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London Dalit Conference: discrimination is a “disgrace” for society

The Christian Network against Caste Discrimination organised the event. The caste system is at present a problem in India, even within the Church. Dalits are the majority of Catholics. “It is significant that Card Turkson will attend the seminar,” a sign that the issue matters for the Vatican.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - "Discrimination against any human being is a disgrace for society everywhere," Fr Z Devasagayaraj, secretary of the Office for Dalits and backward classes of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), told AsiaNews.

The clergyman spoke on the sidelines of "'Christian Responsibility to Dalits and Caste Discrimination’, a conference held in St George's Cathedral, Southwark (London). In his view, "the whole world must condemn racism, xenophobia and apartheid. We cannot keep quiet when such practices occur somewhere in the world."

The Christian Network against Caste Discrimination (CNACD) organised the two-day gathering, which began yesterday, with Card Peter Turkson, head of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, as the guest of honour.

Caste discrimination, especially against the Dalits, aka untouchables, remains a major problem in India, as well as within the Catholic Church. This is why the bishops launched an action plan for the first time last year to counter marginalisation and promote integration. Dalits represent a majority of India’s Catholics, 12 million out of 19.

“We must condemn the caste system and discriminatory practices in the workplace as well,” Fr Devasagayaraj said. "The caste problem is not just a problem in India, but it is widespread in South Asian countries, and where they (Dalits) emigrate."

"We are sorry that these people still carry with them caste discrimination," the clergyman added. For this reason, it is important to organise "international seminars on the issue, so that we can shed light on their discrimination in the country, but also in the Christian community."

According to Mgr Sarat Chandra Nayak, bishop of Berhampur, "the problem is so pervasive that it is not possible to eradicate this evil without the collaboration of the international community. It is vitally important for international institutions to pay greater attention to this issue.”

“Caste discrimination continues to be widespread and persistent,” he explained. In fact, “with globalisation, the problem has been exported and with it, the challenges to solve it. At present, it has become a global phenomenon.”

Sadly, “in the diaspora, communities are pursuing divisive practices, reinforced in various spheres of life.” Hence, "International pressure could greatly influence the Church and the country,” said Fr Bosco SJ, a Jesuit Dalit activist and an advisor to National Council for Dalit Christians.

“It is significant that Card Turkson will attend the seminar,” he said, for this is a sign that the issue matters for the Holy See. “Too often Vatican leaders forget that the Indian clergy is often biased as well.” (NC)

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