Dalit Christians accuse Catholic Church of caste discrimination – MISNA

Dalit Christians protest against discrimination in the ChurchMISNAA DCLM delegation asked the UN and other organizations to urge the Holy See to eradicate the caste discriminatory practices and to withdraw the Permanent Observer position of the Holy See in the UN if the Vatican does not take the necessary steps [to end untouchability]. – MISNA

Cardinal Archbishop Baselios CleemisThe Dalit Christian Liberation Movement (DCLM) accuses the Vatican and the Indian Catholic Church leadership of caste-based discrimination “by way of allowing it directly and indirectly in their spiritual, educational and administrative places”.

“We have submitted seven copies of the complaint to Rajeev Chandran, assistant director of the UN Center in New Delhi addressed to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and different human rights organizations”, Mary John, president of the DCLM, told ucanews.com.

A DCLM delegation asked the UN and other organizations to urge the Holy See to eradicate the caste discriminatory practices and to withdraw the Permanent Observer position of the Holy See in the UN if the Vatican does not take the necessary steps. Dalits, or untouchables, are the lowest caste within Hindu society. Huge numbers of Gregory XV (9 January 1554 – 8 July 1623)Dalits have converted to Christianity and Islam over the decades, though in reality the religions offer limited protection from societal prejudice.

“The discrimination against Dalit Christians in the Catholic Church* is a human rights issue and it would be right if we approach the UN to find a solution to it,” Mary John said.

“There are separate cemeteries for Dalit Christians. Even in the church there are separate seating arrangements for those from the Dalit community and others. The festival choir processions do not enter the streets where Dalit Christians live”, said Kudanthai Arasan, president of the Viduthalai Tamil Puligal Katchi, adding that in some churches even the dead body of a Dalit Christian is not allowed inside for funeral Mass. While Dalit Christians form 70 percent of the total Catholic population in India, said John, their representation in the Church leadership is only 4-5 percent. Out of about 200 Salvatore Pennacchio is Papal Nuncio to Indiaactive bishops in India, only nine are from the Dalit community.

“We have raised our voice time and again to end this practice in the Indian Church, but our pleas have been falling on deaf ears. … They do not take our case seriously to the Vatican”, John said.

Father Joseph Chinnayyan, deputy secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), said that as far as the Dalit Christians’ complaint about the issue to the UN is concerned, “we are not aware of any such complaint and will only respond once we receive any communication about it”. – Euroasia Review, 30 June 2015

Reference

St. Thomas and Caste – Ishwar Sharan: “Scheduled Caste Christians demonstrated against the untouchability practiced in the Church when Pope John Paul II visited India in 1986. They probably did not know that Pope Gregory XV (1621-1623) had sanctioned caste within the Indian Church and that his edict has never been rescinded. Earlier in 1599 the Council of Diamper and again in 1606 the Council of Goa had sanctioned the same. These sanctions have governed Catholic practice ever since — though Christians piously maintain that caste is contrary to Christ’s teachings.”

» MISNA, or the Missionary International Service News Agency, provides daily news ‘from, about and for’ the ‘world’s Souths’, not just in the geographical sense, since December 1997.

Dalits for Equal Rights in Churches

Caste-segregated Christian graveyard in Tamil Nadu: Dalits are buried on the left side of the wall, caste Christians on the right.

2 Responses

  1. SC Christians Allege Caste Discrimination – Express News Service – Coimbatore – 13 July 2015

    COIMBATORE: Alleging caste discrimination and untouchability by the bishop, dioceses, churches and Christian institutions, a group of people belonging to the Scheduled Caste Christian community staged a protest at St Michael’s Cathedral in Coimbatore, where 21 Bishops from 18 Dioceses were participating in the council meeting on Sunday.

    They also alleged that Bishop Jebamalai Susaimanickam deliberately blocked Michael Raj from being appointed as deacon, thus blocking his chances of becoming a priest. The deacon is the position below the priest. The protesters demanded that Michael Raj be appointed as priest of the Sivagangai constituency.

    They also alleged that, even though the scheduled caste Christian community constitutes 75 per cent of the total Christian population, they have been discriminated against and have not been allowed to participate in the decision making process in the church and dioceses.

    “Michael Raj underwent training at a seminary for 12 years and was on the verge of being appointed deacon, which will make him eligible to become a priest soon. It would have been a proud moment for us, but he was sacked from the seminary without any reason,” said PJ Xavier, one of the protestors.

    Explaining the developments that led to his ouster, Michael Raj told Express, “There was a function at the seminary in Tiruchy to welcome the novices. The very next day, six mikes that were used for the function went missing. Later, the mikes were found in a well inside the seminary. I and five others were blamed for it and all six persons were sacked from the seminary. A few days later the culprits confessed and the authorities were forced to take back all the six.” However, Michael Raj was asked to go abroad to practice as a priest and the other five were appointed as priests elsewhere, said Michael Raj.

    He raised the question that if he could be a priest abroad, why shouldn’t he get the opportunity here. “The dioceses and Bishop always discriminate us and it is the reason why 13 people who finished their training in various seminaries have not become priests,” he added.

    Staff from the Bishop’s office told Express that there was no logic behind the allegations. They said the Bishop would convene a press conference on Wednesday to clear all concerns.

  2. Excerpted from “Christian Dalits: Adopted but untouchable” by T.C.G. Menon

    The best way for dalit Christians is to return to their original religion of Hinduism and live as proud Hindus in their own right. We have overcome most of the discrepancies caused in our society by the Muslim invasions and British rule during the last sixty years. Since it is not the fault of Hinduism that dalits suffered discrimination in the past, it is time they studied and practised Hinduism with an open mind.

    I conclude with some common instances of discrimination in the Churches:

    * Construction of two chapels, one for non-dalits and one for dalits;

    * In some parishes liturgical services are conducted separately;

    * Separate seating arrangements within the same chapel. Dalits are usually seated at the two aisles. Even if there are benches or chairs, dalits are required to be seated on the floor;

    * Separate cemeteries and separate hearses to carry the dead (Hindus have common ghats for burning the dead for all castes);

    * Separate queues to ‘receive the sacred body of Christ’. In some places, dalits are required to receive communion only after the non-dalits (almost every mandir provides free food / ‘Annadanam’ as ‘prasadam’ to devotees irrespective of caste; they sit together in rows and partake the food; there is no separate counter for dalits for booking different offerings to the deities);

    * Dalit boys are not allowed to be altar boys and lectors at the sacred liturgy (some north Indian temples allow any devotee to enter the sanctum sanctorum to pray or offer pujas; in south Indian temples only the head priest and his assistant are allowed to do so);

    * Dalits are not invited to participate in the washing of feet ceremony on Maundy Thursday;

    * For fear of claims to equal participation in the celebration of the feast of the parish patron saint, Parish Councils decide not to collect financial contribution from dalits;

    * The feast of the village patron saint is celebrated separately.

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