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Dalit Christians gain national voice to fight caste discrimination in India

The first national meeting between leaders of Dalit Christian Women across India has vowed to fight to raise issues affecting members of their community, tackle discrimination and raise the standing of this often oppressed group.

The meeting, organised by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), was held in Bangalore on 13th February and set out to analyse the reality of life for Dalit Christian women in the country, to discuss the way forward and to enhance the capacity of Dalit Christian women leadership.

Fr Devasagayaraj, secretary to the CBCI office, welcomed the gathering and expressed his joy at this, the first meeting ever held for Dalit Catholic women leaders at the national level.

Delegates pledged to give voice on behalf of the Dalit community, but especially Dalit women and speak up for their rights.

The Dalit community has faced a huge amount of discrimination across the years, particularly caused by India’s caste system.

The CBCI has produced a comprehensive policy that clearly spells out the official position of Catholic India regarding Dalits. It declares the Indian tradition of ‘untouchability’ as a grave social sin in any of its form and calls for an end to the tradition.

The CBCI is also fighting to empower Dalit Christians through educational, employment, economic and entrepreneurship programmes. The aim of the policy is to bring about an equitable Church in India without any caste discrimination.

The policy of Dalit Empowerment in the Catholic Church in India was officially authorised in December last year by Cardinal Cleemis, the President of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) at the CBCI Centre, New Delhi, with the policy receiving its official launch the day after the Christian women’s meeting on 14th February.

The policy launch was led by Most Rev. Neethinathan, chair bishop of the CBCI Office for Dalits and Backward Classes. Fr Selva, director of ISI, presented the policy and called upon the Catholic faithful of the Indian Catholic Church to consider it as a mandate from God to make the Indian Church the real Kingdom of God. Fr Devasagayaraj, Fr Selva SJ, Sr Robancy, Mr Kennedy and Mr Mariswamy co-ordinated the programme.

Picture: Delegates at the first national meeting of the Dalit Christian Women’s group in Bangalore.