30 November 2010

Call to pray for 'untouchables' on Dalit Liberation Sunday

On Sunday 5 December Methodists are being asked to show solidarity with Dalits, 300 million people outside the caste system that face discrimination in Indian society and around the world.

Dalit Liberation Sunday is a joint initiative of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) and the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI).

Caste discrimination is believed to be the largest systemic human rights abuse in the world today. Whilst it has been abolished under the Indian Constitution, discrimination and prejudice against Dalits remains widespread. Thousands of Dalits were evicted from Delhi to remove the sight of slums for visitors to the Commonwealth Games.

Revd David Gamble, Ex-President of the Methodist Conference, recently attended the 40th Anniversary celebrations of the Church of North India. He said: "I am very pleased to see that the Indian Churches are addressing the caste question, for example at the recent National Council of Churches Conference on Justice for Dalits. Anything that can be done here to support their efforts, by prayer and action, will contribute to the Gospel call to mission in today's world."

"Caste discrimination is still a major problem both inside and outside the Indian Churches," said the Lord Harries of Pentregarth, former Bishop of Oxford and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Dalits. "I warmly commend Dalit Liberation Sunday and hope very much that churches of all denominations will include the Dalits of India in their prayers on that day."

Churches are encouraged to have special prayers on this day, preach sermons related to the theme and observe the day in creative ways. A special liturgy for Dalit Liberation Sunday, together with a range of other resources for prayer and reflection, can be found on the NCCI website - www.nccindia.in/.

Bishop Dr. V. Devasahayam, Bishop of the Madras Diocese of Church of South India, himself a Dalit, addressed the National Ecumenical Conference on Justice for Dalits last month in New Delhi. He said: "The Indian Church is in a sorry state. Church will fail if it does not weed out caste within and outside. Both cannot go together as Christianity is life giving while casteism is a sin and scandal.

"Christ must save us from the abominable sin of caste," he added. "If He can't, then the Gospel is powerless."

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