Dalit Christians are “sandwiched between the State and the Church”, says Catholic body

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New Delhi | Published: December 15, 2016 3:01:44 PM

Claiming that Dalit Christians are “sandwiched between the State and the Church”, Indian Catholic Church has formally said that Dalit Christians face untouchability and discrimination, and that “their participation in the level of leadership… at the higher levels is almost nil”.

Claiming that Dalit Christians are “sandwiched between the State and the Church”, Indian Catholic Church has formally said that Dalit Christians face untouchability and discrimination, and that “their participation in the level of leadership… at the higher levels is almost nil”. (Representative image by Reuters)Claiming that Dalit Christians are “sandwiched between the State and the Church”, Indian Catholic Church has formally said that Dalit Christians face untouchability and discrimination, and that “their participation in the level of leadership… at the higher levels is almost nil”. (Representative image by Reuters)

Claiming that Dalit Christians are “sandwiched between the State and the Church”, Indian Catholic Church has formally said that Dalit Christians face untouchability and discrimination, and that “their participation in the level of leadership… at the higher levels is almost nil”. These were said in a policy document prepared and released by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), the apex decision-making body of the community. It has also criticised the Supreme Court judgment that there was no evidence that Dalit Christians remain as socially and economically backward as Dalit Hindus after conversion. The policy document stated that this position was against Article 15 (1) of the Constitution that prohibits discrimination based on religion. The 44-page document, titled ‘Policy of Dalit Empowerment in the Catholic Church in India’, has also asked the 171 dioceses to submit long and short-term plans within a year to end all kinds of discrimination against Dalit Christians. “If there are dual practices based on caste discrimination, such practices should be stopped forthwith. In case of failure to do so, stringent measures should be taken by the Church authority concerned,” says the document, according to an Indian Express report.

Baselios Cardinal Cleemis Catholicos, president, CBCI, told The Indian Express: “It’s a revolutionary step. We are admitting that it’s a grave social sin, an issue and a problem. It’s a sin, if you are going by the Christian spirit. This is a step to end the practice of discrimination within the church. It’s a message as well as an introspection.”
Incidentally, the Church has been fighting for years for the inclusion of Dalit Christians in the Scheduled Castes list.

But its latest policy document admits that although 12 million out of 19 million members of the Catholic Church in India are Dalit Christians, when it comes to “their participation in the level of leadership in the diocesan administration as well as in religious orders is minimum and at the higher levels, it is almost nil”.
At present, only 12 out of the more than 5,000 bishops in the Catholic Church in the country are Dalit Christians.

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