All India Catholic Union

Founded in 1919, Registered under Societies Registration Act 1860
Representating the Catholic Laity of India through 120 Diocesan Units Nationwide

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The AGM of Catholic Mahasabha - Sambalpur Diocese

The Annual General Body meeting of Catholic Mahasabha - Sambalpur Diocese was held at Utkal Jyoti, Jharsuguda from 27/11/2016 to 28/11/2016. The delegate meeting was organised on two days. On the first day Rev Bishop Niranjan Swalsingh of Sambalpur Catholic Diocese was the Chief Guest and Shri Celestine Tigga, DSP, Sambalpur First, was the chief speaker. Both the dignitaries delivered their speeches on subjects allotted to them. The speeches had good impact on the delegates of nearly 200. On the first day we mainly discussed the various social problems of our tribal communities at length. Secondly, the Socio Economic problems were taken up for discussion. On the second day the Session started after the holy Mass. The state president Shri Thomas Minz was present along with the newly elected executives of Kandhamal. Shri Sarjius Minj, IAS, retired Chief Secretary of Chattisgarh state was the Chief Guest on the 2nd day. On second day the discussion was on Religious and Education. We also discussed the Five Year Pastoral Plan of our Diocese. Thrust was given on the Participatory church l and role of Laity in the overall development of our Diocese. We also took stand for formation of more Laity Organisation in those parishes where it is not existing at present. In the end there was election for the next 3 years' Office bearers. Here is the new elected body of SambalpurCatholic Diocese. President Shri Angelus Lakra, elected for 2nd term. Vice presidents 1) Shri Joseph Kujur 2) Shri Jonas Chatriya, and 3) Smt Jainta Kujur. Secretary - Shri Sikander Lakra -Angelus Lakra,

How Class Relates to Altruism -Don Aguiar

Jesus Christ was always upright, loyal and true in the service of the Lord, although as an instrument of the divine he had to play a thankless role and be misunderstood during His time. The Generosity of the Poor: How class relates to altruism: A slumdog, at bottom, can be a millionaire at heart That’s the life God planned for Jesus Christ to experience and go through The real reason why Jesus Christ and his foster parents Joseph and Mary accepted such a role was because they were obedient devotees to the will of God. Because when God wants to show a fantastic example to the whole world, He uses His devotee. Even if His devotee has to temporarily become His enemy, the devotee accepts that position out of love. So Joseph and Mary the foster parents of Jesus Christ understood God’s plan. He wanted to show the whole world in the coming ages the most important principle in life: Whoever we are, however wealthy we are, however powerful, famous, beautiful, learned or renounced we are, if we are not on the side of God, then we will be defeated. And irrespective of who we are, if we are on the side of God we will be victorious because God is unconquerable. Yet God agrees to be conquered by the love of His devotees. God appears in many wonderful ways according to time, place and situation. When people wonder why there are so many different religions, they are right; actually there is only one religion. Religion means obedience to law of God for developing love for God. We all are part and parcel of God and our constitutional position is to serve Him with love. Everyone needs affection. It’s the fundamental craving of the heart—to give affection and to receive affection. — To love, to serve. And in that comes the greatest enjoyment When reading the Bible chapter on the birth of Christ, you will understand the ways God was communicating to his people the different way of expressing and receiving affection. That’s why everything is created: to be utilized for the purpose of expressing our affection and receiving affection. That’s all that really matters in life. If we are sick, we should try to get better; it’s our duty. It’s God’s body, so we should make it better. But even the healthiest people in the world are depressed, many are taking anti-depressants, having nervous breakdowns and some are committing suicide. So health alone does not make us happy. Wealth does not make us happy, either. What if we own everything in the world but we are the only person living? Who are you going to enjoy all the things with? We can’t really have affection, which is reciprocal, with things. We have to have people. This is the nature of God and His plan for His devotees to be humble, affectionate, and helpful, to serve and spread goodwill and cheer to one and all and in that comes the greatest enjoyment. In Christianity it is often said, “God is love.” What does that mean? Devotion is the eternal natural energy. It simply means that we should repose the affection that we have within our hearts towards God in a favorable way that pleases Him. That’s all that we have to do From the Bible we learn of the affection of God for us and the simplicity and humble manner in which he sends his Son Jesus Christ into this world thru a carpenter a simple, trusting and humble man and his pregnant wife who were way down the status hierarchy. They were travelling from one place to another and during the night of their travel his wife starts getting labor pains. He hastily goes to look for a decent place for her to rest and deliver but all that he could get was a stable in an inn where his wife delivers. To keep them company were the shepherds with their cattle and the inn staff who were also way down the status hierarchy but in spite of odds against them, offered without a second thought all that they had, to make the carpenters wife and child comfortable and warm during that chilly wintry night. On Thursday night, a fire in the mixed neighborhood of Malwani in Mumbai killed three people and injured many more. This story hit the headlines, as it should, but there is an uplifting end to the tale. While the building blazed, several absolutely unrelated individuals went inside the inferno and saved many lives. Neither of the two, the devastation or the valor, are new; in fact, in most disaster stories they feature together. Yet, we rarely pause to wonder how people can be so selfless in a world so self-absorbed. Carelessness and negligence cause these tragedies, but absolute kindness creates heroes from nowhere – they don’t even wear masks or capes. They are usually ordinary, unremarkable people, more often than not, strangers to those afflicted and, most significantly; rarely ever posh, not even from the confirmed middle class. This story gives you the feel of the people that were around Jesus and his carpenter father and mother that night when Jesus was born and the joy and enjoyment in celebrating life. The many annual bravery awards tell a similar story of compassion. Take, for example, the teenaged Gaurav Kawduji Sahstrabuddhe, who rescued his playmates from drowning. He came from a poor working class family. Then there are the Sanjay Chopra and Geeta Chopra Awards that are given to persons of exceptional courage. In all nearly a thousand young people have been selected for these honors, but if one were to take these prize winners together, the overwhelming majority would be from not-so-well-off backgrounds. Courage is, probably, evenly distributed, but the willingness to do something risky to help unknown others increases as one goes down the status ladder. This similar situation prevailed at the Inn stable as well as for Jesus from his cradle to His resurrection There is this old sociological nugget that goes as follows: in the everyday presentation of self, the higher one rises socially, the fewer friends one has. The number of sycophants may grow, but that of true buddies, with whom you can let your hair down, decreases with every notch you climb. The reverse then should also hold: as you go down the status hierarchy you gather more friends and fewer sycophants. Obviously, the poorer you are, the fewer inhibitions you have, and this lets you connect across class divides. Therefore, when bad times come, as they will, you are not looking for wood to knock on because you have friends by your side. The following story has not been picked up by the press, but it is also true. Two lepers begging at a traffic light come back to push a stalled car with their forearms, carefully avoiding their bandaged hands. When the engine finally guns and the vehicle takes off they wave the driver goodbye, but that gesture goes unanswered. No car owner within eyesight bothered, nor did any well-dressed pedestrian. If they had, that driver would have surely thanked them and exchanged polite greetings. This is why a greater degree of camaraderie can be worked up at short notice among the starchless, simple people. Note, for instance, how quickly drivers make friends with their kind while waiting for their bosses to turn up; or, the number of villagers who crowd a hospital ward to help a sick friend, or relative. Travel cattle class by train and very soon people begin chatting and, before long, start sharing food and family news. The first class, some carriages away, has strangers sitting edgily side by side. So, if there is any bonding at all in our society, it comes from the poorer quarters. This is what makes people so hard to realize: the better off are just out of it. This is also God’s ways through the birth of his Son Jesus to make us realize the same. In elite parts of Mumbai one finds many travel agencies advertising slum trips for prosperous travelers. Many of these agencies are doing extraordinarily well; especially after the grand success of the Hollywood film Slumdog Millionaire. These tours are meant to showcase dreadful poverty to people who hardly know what it is about. Indian slums and alien planets are equally foreign to most Westerners. Yet, when they return, they are not repulsed by the poverty they saw. Instead they are surprised – even astonished – at the many happy faces among the very poor. How could that be? The quick explanation is to link slum cheer to Indian culture, but that misses the point. The truth is that poverty is friendship friendly. Those at the top will never know this joy. A slumdog, at bottom, can be a millionaire at heart, how class relates to altruism and: brings joy to the world, peace on earth and goodwill to all men - which is the way God, looked at His devotees not only to celebrate the birth of His Son Jesus Christ but to continue in living this way 24x7, 365x12. God said that whoever believes in Him shall never perish; He will always protect His devotee. But how He protects his devotee is not according to his devotee’s choice; that is according to His choice. He may protect his devotee by kicking him, punching him, taking everything away from him or He may protect his devotee by giving him the whole world. Wish our readers all the best in living the way God wants us to and – A MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR 2017.

Why Is There Such A Sudden Change? - Don Aguiar.

God has no philosophy of non violence, but He has a way of life which you can call reverence of life. And this is a totally different perspective. Non violence simply says don’t kill others. Do you think that is enough? It is only a negative statement, don’t kill others, don’t harm others. Is that enough? Reverence for life says share, give your joy, your peace, your bliss. Whatsoever you can share, share. Keeping this in mind He sent His son to be born of man and women on a cold wintry night in a stable for this very purpose. This very night/day is celebrated as Christmas. If you are reverent in life then it becomes worship. Then everywhere you feel existence alive. Then watering a tree becomes worship, feeding a guest becomes worship and you are not obliging anybody, you are not doing a service, you are simply enjoying yourself. The same way some people are enjoying torturing or being selfish, you are enjoying sharing. There is a kind of world that we want. There is a kind of world we will inherit. We have a few known knows about the world we want – on how to ACTUALLY practice reverence of life. I say "actually" because there are still plenty of people out there who don't understand the meaning of reverence of life in Christianity. My goal is to make sure those believers and non believers don't view Christianity as just an entertaining religion and the celebrating of Christian feast like Christmas to be celebrated with entertainment or a day to attend Christmas service to complete their spiritual obligation with lack of respect and reverence or dress scantily or shabbily for the Christmas service or skipping the Christmas service to only celebrate and party. We start with something that may shock you with a picture of Miss Universe wearing scantily or shabby clothes on stage. I have to admit; I am actually a little nervous taking such a picture as an example to our readers and ask the question. Is this appropriate for attending an interview or conference? Almost immediately nearly all your heads will start shaking no which would include the young millennials agreeing swiftly. Maybe the "more seasoned" of you may suspect that there is more to the question. Well, there is. I put the question to you a second time but with a small adjustment. Is it appropriate to dress scantily or shabbily or show lack of reverence when attending Christmas services? The reaction will be completely different this time around. Of course one would say one looks at keeping up with the -“Jones” - fashion, style and whatever they see fit that will make them present themselves the way they want to. But, what does this actual attracting attention thru - fashion, style or whatever has to do with the actual reverence of life in celebrating Christmas. The entertainment part of the celebrations were never connected to celebrating Jesus birth/birthday, who was sent by God His father as a messenger of joy, peace and mercy? We have a problem for Christmas services it's not people attending the service dressed scantily or shabbily or lacking respect and reverence. The problem is that after decades reverence has been relegated to the back seat and most now don't get that Christmas should be celebrated keeping Christ the center of the celebration. Christmas service is not meant to only be a place where you live for appearances or attracting attention - show off your new clothes or whatever and hope that someday someone will say nice dress, nice fit….. Christmas service is a service to connect and build relationships with God thru the birth of His son through reverence which is love and gratitude. You might be thinking "yes but those relationships need to be spiritual and reverent." Ok, but what spiritual relationship do you have that's completely devoid of anything personal? The point to get across is that you just need to celebrate Christmas with keeping Christ the center of the celebration. And by celebrating Christmas that way, you'll likely be criticized. Just remember, the only way to avoid criticism is to say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing. At that point, why even bother about the criticism? By the way things are presently going chance are that this sort of thing will eventually happen. Why is there such a sudden change? Is it a dissatisfaction which leads us to live in that tension of worldly vanity, to live for appearances? One sees many people who live only to be in a shop window, for appearances, in order to say: ‘Ah, what a good thing it is...’, for fame, worldly fame. Doing this, however, you cannot serve the Lord. That is why we ask the Lord to remove obstacles because in serenity, be it in body or spirit, we can dedicate ourselves freely to his service. Be warned against the temptation of remaining fascinated by the “fireworks of an entertaining religion”, and always searching for “new things, revelations and messages, which last for a moment and then vanish away Indeed, Jesus also tells us another thing: how it is, namely, the way. In fact, the Kingdom of God does not come about in the way of attracting attention and no one will say ‘here it is’ or ‘there it is’. No, the Kingdom of God is in the midst of all of you: it is not a religion of entertainment with which we are always searching for new things, revelations and messages. And this religion of entertainment is not hope: it is the desire to have something in one’s hand. However, our salvation is measured in hope, the hope that belongs to the man who sowed wheat or the woman who prepared the bread, mixing yeast and flour: the hope that it will grow. On the other hand, this artificial light or attraction is all about an instant and then vanishes, as fireworks do: it is not enough to illuminate a house, it is a show. This is where things get interesting. The question is why? Because - Most in the community pay less attention to keeping Christ the center of the Christmas celebration or for that matter all Christian celebrations, or have lost respect and reverence and are in great haste to get into the entertainment aspect which they had planned way ahead while the clergy have done nothing to redirect this situation, to the correct direction, to plan the spiritual celebration way ahead and ensure community participation in following Jesus example but all that the clergy have done is to look the other side. . What exactly has happened then? The church and the clergy have become a victim of what the economist Friedrich Hayek has called the knowledge problem. As he wrote in a seminal article called the ‘Use of knowledge in Society’ ‘Any problem of Society…… is a problem of utilization of knowledge which is not given to anyone in totality.’ This basically means that whenever the clergy make a decision like looking the other side …… they think they have all the knowledge required that will correct the situation. But they never do. As Matt Ridley writes in The Evolution of Everything: ‘The knowledge required to organize human society is bafflingly voluminous, it cannot be held in a single human head” This is precisely where the Clergy have got caught. They don’t realize that the community will drift towards preferring entertainment as the present situation demands, live for appearances and attention resulting in lack of respect and reverence towards church services and will figure out various ways to not be spiritually or even physically present during the service. Christian love, being rooted in the Incarnation, is always ‘tangible’, and is often demonstrated through “works of mercy”. However most are at the risk of believing in the kind of “love” that is found in a “novel or a soap opera: worldly, philosophical, abstract, and soft On the contrary, the criterion for Christian love is the Incarnation of the Word. Whoever says that Christian love is something else is the antichrist, who does not acknowledge that the Word came in the flesh. Precisely this is our truth: God sent his Son, who became Incarnate and made a life like us. Because of this we must love as Jesus loved; love as Jesus taught us; love …following Jesus’ example; love …walking along the path of Jesus. Thus, the path of Jesus gives life. This is the knowledge Hayek talked about. Less knowledgably or devout Catholics view Christianity as a religion of entertainment resulting in celebrating Christmas as an entertaining celebration and have forgotten about keeping Christ the center of the celebration. They will attend service only to fulfill their obligation and in a haste in order to go into the entertaining celebration. Now only if the clergy had read Hayek. They could have got the community to demonstrate the Kingdom of God does not come about in the way of attracting attention or for appearances but through works of mercy Christian love that the word came in the flesh – God sent his son to be born of man and women on Christmas day to spread mercy, joy and brotherhood to all mankind. Gospel (19:1-10): the tax collector from Jericho feels that curiosity, a curiosity that comes from grace, which was sown by the Holy Spirit and brings Zacchaeus to say: “I want to see the Lord”. The initiative comes from the Spirit. Hence the Lord looks up and says: ‘Come down, invite me to your house!’ God, therefore, always acts with love: either to correct us, to invite us to dinner, or to be invited. He is going to tell us: ‘Wake up’. He is going to tell us: ‘Open’. He is going to tell us: ‘Come down’. But it is always him. Hence the final invitation that every Christian asks himself: “Do I know in my heart how to distinguish when the Lord says ‘wake up’? When he says ‘open’? And when he says to me ‘come down’?” Let us pray to the Lord that our journey in love will never — never — make us an abstract love. And that the love may instead be tangible, with works of mercy, in order to touch the flesh of Christ there, of Christ incarnate and guide us to celebrate this Christmas the same way. Wish one and All a Merry Christmas!!!!! AND A Happy New Year 2017




White Europeans dream of a White Christmas, as the old Christmas carol goes, with snow all around, to give them that Christmassy feeling. The same Europeans who have migrated to Australia in the southern hemisphere, where it is summer at Christmas time, reportedly create artificial snow, or use cotton wool to get the Christmas “effect”! But there was nothing white about the original Christmas, when the Lord Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem in what was Palestine (and still was till its occupation by Israel in 1967). Jesus was born into a Semitic race, who are brown in colour and having black hair; not the rosy pink cheeks and curly golden locks of artistic licence. We brown Indians may have to celebrate a black Christmas this year, because Modi’s “surgical strike” to eradicate black money has left a “black hole” of nothingness in most peoples’ pockets. I was supposed to attend a Christmas dinner in New Delhi hosted by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India this 13th December. The dense fog and interminable train delays botched my plans. Sri Arun Jaitley, our Finance Minister, was the Chief Guest at the dinner. I was sorely tempted to ask him to make a special concession for Christians at Christmas time, to allow us to withdraw extra cash from the banks, to avoid a black out. I am a businessman whose maximum sale is at Christmas. Hence I would have had a further vested interested in asking Jaitley for the concession. However, my conscience did not permit me, for the very simple reason that I do not see Christmas as a “celebration”; cards, cakes and candles notwithstanding. For me Christmas is a commemoration. Rabindranath Tagore had said that every child that is born is a sign of hope, that God loves the world. That greatest gift of love may be experienced in the birth of Jesus. Christians like me believe that he came into this world to reconcile man with God, to bring all to salvation and eternal bliss. What of millions of my fellow Indians who may not see Jesus in that light? Does Christmas have any message for them – be it black, brown or white? The message is to be found in the dramatis personae associated with the nativity scene. There is the young woman Mary, bearing the pain of childbirth for the benefit (gain) of others; unlike the present dispensation that inflicts pain on the common man for its own political gain. Then there is Joseph, a simple man who did not quite grasp the portents of what was unfolding, but stood steadfast as a pillar of strength for his young wife. There were angels proclaiming peace to all persons of goodwill (not just to Christians, or those who may have believed in Jesus). There were the hard working shepherds, guarding their flocks against the cold and predators. The constant searching of the Wise Men of the East led them too to Bethlehem. At the other extreme there was Herod, the reigning Jewish king, who felt threatened. His throne was shaking, so he decided to kill all the newborn male children, to protect his own vested interest. This Christmas will not be black or white, depending on the colour of our skin, or the source of our money. White is the fusion of all colours, and black is the absence of all colours. Let us then strive for a different White Christmas, with a fusion of all colours – the sacrifice of Mary, the trust of Joseph, the hard work of the shepherds, the seeking after truth of the Wise Men, and the promotion of peace and harmony in all mankind. If, however, we have only our own selfish interests, or “celebrations” at heart, like that of Herod, then we are destined for a black Christmas. The choice is ours. CHRISTMAS 2016 * The writer is the President of the Kanpur Catholic Association



Policy of Dalit Empowerment in the Catholic Church in India

1 Policy of Dalit Empowerment in the Catholic Church in India An Ethical Imperative to Build Inclusive Communities Contents Foreword Acknowledgement List of Abbreviations I. Introduction II. Dalit Realities and the Status of Dalit Christians III. Journey of the Catholic Church in Empowering Dalit Christians IV. Biblical-Theological Basis for Building Inclusive Communities V. Roadmap for the Future VI. Action Plan of the CBCI VII. Recommendations VIII. Review and Monitoring IX. The Way Forward 2 8 th December 2016 FOREWORD India is a cradle of many civilizations and religions. Great sages envisaged a common human family and recognized the ray of the Divine in all human beings. Unfortunately, there are also blots in the Indian society such as casteism and untouchability. Many social reformers tried to transform the situation but could not succeed much. The constitution of India clearly spells that “untouchability’ is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. The enforcement of any disability arising out of ‘Untouchability’ shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.” (Article 17). Efforts are continuing to eradicate untouchability. The Church has been playing an important role in empowering Dalits. Individually and organizationally endeavors have been made to educate and to employ them. Dalits professing Christian Faith are still denied by the Government of India the benefits of the reservation policy given to other Dalits professing Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist Faiths. During the seminars about Dalit empowerment, meetings with the Dalit leaders, strong suggestions had emerged for a clear policy from the Church on Dalit empowerment. The 125th birth anniversary of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, an unique leader who spearheaded the struggles of the marginalized communities particularly the Dalits, was another occasion for deep reflection on the Dalits issue. Considering the present scenario and keeping in mind the need to awaken the Dalit communities, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) is making this landmark decision of issuing its Dalit policy. It is the fruit of various deliberations held by leaders who are interested in the cause of Dalits discussed and approved by the Catholic Bishops of India. This Policy gives clear directions for the Church to further empower Dalits who are in need of special attention and care. It is the call of the Church along with the Magnificat of Mother Mary to create an equitable Church and society proclaiming “He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty”.(Lk 1: 52-53) 3 As the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, I whole heartedly urge the Bishops, priests, religious and lay leaders to internalize and to implement the policy in all levels. We should consider it as our obligation based on Christian Faith to empower our children, sisters and brothers of Dalit origin and other marginalized people. May our Lady Mother of the poor and the marginalized intercede for us in our efforts to strengthen the weak and marginalized. + Baselios Cardinal Cleemis Major Archbishop-Catholicos & President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India. Acknowledgement All human beings are created in the image and likeness of God. Hence everyone is precious in the eyes of God and fellow human beings. The central truth of the Christian faith is the Incarnation. Jesus our Savior became a human person to affirm human dignity. The life and mission of Jesus is to preach the love of God and love of neighbor. The preferential love for the neglected and the despised is the characteristic mark of the ministry of Jesus. The Nazareth Manifesto (Luke 4:16-18), his special love towards the outcastes, the lepers, the despised and the women are unique aspects of the ministry of Jesus. Anything that goes against human worth is against the plan of God. Caste discrimination and untouchability are against the fundamental tenets of Christian Faith. Hence, in the liturgy of Baptism there is a call to renounce casteism. However, practices of untouchability do exist in the Church. The CBCI statements painfully observe these facts and exhort the Christian community to eradicate these abominable practices. The Catholic Bishops of India have committed themselves to empower Dalits and other marginalized groups in the church and in the society. The Indian state discriminates against Dalits professing Christian Faith by denying the benefits of the Reservation Policy. It means depriving Dalit Christians their means to livelihood such as economic benefits, job opportunities, denying political representation and legal protection given under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act (1989). Various regional and national commissions, including the Mandal Commission and recent Ranganath Misra Commission have recommended that the benefits of the reservation policy must 4 be extended to all Dalits. Many years of democratic and peaceful struggle to obtain equal rights for Dalit Christians has not produced the desired results. We are celebrating the birth anniversary of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, the undisputed leader of Dalits who was the brain behind the Reservation policy which is an expression of social justice. There is no doubt that the Church has played an important role in educating the Dalits, Adivasis and other marginalized groups. However, it is the need of the hour to spell out clearly the policy of the Church in empowering the Dalits. Collective and united actions are needed for the human flourishing of children, sisters and brothers of Dalit origin. In response to this need the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India has prepared a policy for Dalit empowerment. It is the fruit of various deliberations held at the regional and national levels. Let me acknowledge here the commitment and the hard work done by bishops, priests, religious, activists, theologians, biblical scholars, sociologists, regional and diocesan secretaries and particularly the CBCI Office for SC/BC. I would like to express my sincere appreciation and gratitude to each and every one of them. My heartfelt gratitude to the CBCI Office- bearers, the members of the Standing Committee of CBCI and the special drafting committee to study the policy. Our credible and meaningful presence in the nation is possible only when we share the pain and agony of our children, sisters and brothers of Dalit origin. Let us strive our level best to accompany them through our collective efforts to realize the dream of Jesus, a new social order where love, peace, equality and justice reign supreme. Most Rev. A. Neethinathan Chairperson, CBCI Office for SC/BC Bishop of Chingleput 5 List of Abbreviations AIACHE - All India Association for Christian Higher Education AICU - All India Catholic Union AIIMS - All India Institute of Medical Sciences AL - Amoris Laetitia BC - Backward Class CBCI - Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India CBO - Community Based Organisation CBSE - Central Board of Secondary Education CDLM - Christian Dalit Liberation Movement CRI - Conference of Religious India CSCO - Christians of Scheduled Caste Origin CSO - Civil Society Organization CST - Catholic Social Teaching CTA - Committee for Tribal Affairs DCLM - Dalit Christian Liberation Movement DSSS - Diocesan Social Service Society EFI - Evangelical Fellowship of India GS - Gaudium et Spes IAS - Indian Administrative Service IFS - Indian Foreign Service IIM - Indian Institute of Management IIT - Indian Institute of Technology IPS - Indian Police Service LI - Laudato Si MIDS - Madras Institute of Development Studies MPCE - Monthly Percapita Consumption Expenditure NBCLC - National Biblical Catechetical and Liturgical Centre NCCI - National Council of Churches in India NCDC - National Council of Dalit Christians NCSC - National Commission for Scheduled Castes NCST - National Commission for Scheduled Tribes NGO - Non-Governmental Organization NHRC - National Human Rights Commission SC - Scheduled Caste (Dalits) SCSP - Scheduled Caste Sub Plan (Special Component Plan) SRS - Sollicitudo Rei Socialis ST - Scheduled Tribes (Adivasis / Indigenous Peoples) TNBC - Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council TSP - Tribal Sub Plan 6 I. Introduction 1. In the beginning God created human beings in ‘His own image and likeness’ (Gen 1:26). But when they alienated themselves from Him, evil entered the world and destroyed the beauty of the universe. To re-create and restore His image, God sent His only Son (Jn 3:16) to proffer salvation and the possession of total well-being, enabling all human beings to experience their fulfilment, where all would live in total equality, fellowship and communion. A sustained movement to strive for the well-being of all and in particular the Dalits is an urgent need for the biblical vision to become a reality in India. This policy aims at rooting out all discriminative caste consciousness and similar divisive prejudices and iniquitous practices. 2. Dalits, though historically the daughters and sons of the soil, are today alienated from it and they are silenced and robbed of dignity, 1 largely deprived of the basic necessities of life. They are seen and treated as children of a lesser God. However, there is a growing consciousness in the Church to restore dignity of all and justice to the last and the least. 3. Pope John Paul II has categorically stated: “Any semblance of a caste-based prejudice in relations between Christians is a countersign to authentic human solidarity, a threat to genuine spirituality and a serious hindrance to the Church’s mission of evangelization. Therefore, customs and traditions that perpetuate or reinforce caste division should be sensitively reformed so that they may become an expression of solidarity of the whole Christian community.”2 4. In the “Face of Mercy”, Pope Francis indicates that justice and mercy are the two sides of God’s love. Justice is to be imparted with regard to the human dignity of Dalits so that the entire humankind enjoys the mercy and love of God, our common Father. 5. As the Church celebrates the 50th anniversary of Dignitatis Humanae (Human Dignity) and the 125th year of Catholic Social Teaching, and as India commemorates the 125th birth anniversary of Dr B.R. Ambedkar, the Holy Year of Mercy is a Kairos moment (the privileged moment of Divine Grace) for the Indian Church. 6. Deeply aware of the challenges ahead of us in living and experiencing God’s love, the CBCI adopts and promulgates the “Policy of Dalit Empowerment in the Catholic Church in India”, inviting everyone to go through a process of metanoia (repentance) and experience the Easter joy, radically transforming our minds and hearts individually, collectively and structurally. Duly acknowledging various efforts taken by the Church in recent decades, this policy is a step forward, to root out practices of untouchability and caste discrimination at all levels and empowerment of Dalits and Dalit Christians demanding constitutional protection and justice from the state as citizens. 7. This policy should not be misconstrued as an effort to divide the Church along caste lines but as an effort to help the deprived within the Church and an invitation to live our faith 7 more meaningfully and radically, ushering in the era of a New Heaven and a New Earth, following the footsteps of the Risen Lord. 8. Highlighting various efforts taken by the Catholic Church in the last four decades, this document invites us to build God’s kingdom here on earth, especially in the Indian context. It also gives a clarion call to the faithful to join hands with all people of goodwill in this new journey filled with mercy, solidarity and justice. II. Dalit Realities and the Status of Dalit Christians 9. The painful realities of Dalit Christians are organically linked to the realities of Dalits, adivasis, minorities, women, children, and other marginalized and excluded communities. However, the experience of untouchability is unique to Dalits, resulting in deprivation, discrimination and exclusion at all levels, from womb to tomb. 10. Every 18 minutes a crime is committed against a Dalit. Every day, 3 Dalit women are raped, 2 Dalits are murdered, 11 are beaten, and 2 Dalit houses are burnt. Official police statistics in 2012 observes that in the previous five years, every week 13 Dalits are murdered, 6 are kidnapped or abducted, and 5 Dalit houses or possessions are burnt.3 11. 37 per cent of Dalits live below the poverty line. 54 per cent of their children are malnourished, 21 per cent are undernourished, and 21 per cent are severely underweight. 83 per 1000 children born in Dalit community die before the first birthday; 12 per cent die before their fifth birthday. 45 per cent of Dalits are illiterate; literacy rates for Dalit women are as low as 37.8 per cent in rural India. Dalit women are burdened with double discrimination (gender and caste). Only 27 per cent of Dalit women give institutional deliveries. 12. About one-third of Dalit households lack basic facilities. Public health workers refuse to visit Dalit homes in 33 per cent of villages. Dalits are prevented from entering the police station in 27.6 per cent of villages. Dalit children have to sit separately while eating in 37.8 per cent of government schools. Dalits do not get mail delivered to their homes in 23.5 per cent of villages. Dalits are denied access to water sources in 48.4 per cent of villages. 13. The conviction rate under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act is 15.71 per cent and pendency is as high as 85.37 per cent. “A large number of cases which deserve to be registered under the Protection of Civil Rights Act or the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act are not actually registered under these Acts, either due to ignorance of law or under pressure from the interested parties. Investigation in even those limited number of cases is often carried out in a slipshod manner and with considerable delay.”4 8 14. Dalit and tribal students in higher educational institutions of repute, such as the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi (AIIMS), Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), medical as well as engineering colleges, besides universities, government and private, have committed suicide in the face of monstrous caste-based discrimination from the upper-caste faculty and fellow students. Inquiry commissions, headed by upper-caste judges, have in most cases found no merit in the complaints of Dalit students. The National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST), which are supposed to function as watchdogs, prefer to keep silence for fear of losing their sinecures. 15. The State envisioned that the three-pronged approach and strategy adopted in the Constitution5 would gradually help to eliminate conditions which lead to this violence and over a period of time would promote equality in society.6 16. But the evidence shows that the State has failed in building India as a social democracy. Due to lack of political will, there has not been an earnest and sustained implementation of policies and programmes at all levels. Neo-liberalism, the new economic ideology of the State, has further impoverished Dalits. Communal forces have greatly polarized Dalits on the basis of sub-castes and religions. As a result, Dalit organizations, civil society organizations (CSOs) and people’s movements are in perpetual conflict with the State. Status of Dalit Christians 17. Dalit Christians experience the same measure of discrimination, violence and exclusion as other Dalits. 7 But they cannot avail the protection of The Prevention of Atrocities Act, since under the law they are not deemed to be Dalits. 18. Moreover, Dalit Christians are sandwiched between the State and the Church. Presidential Order, 1950, in para 3 stipulates that “no person who professes a religion different from Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism shall be deemed to be a member of Scheduled Caste”. In Soosai v. Union of India, in 1985, the Supreme Court accepted that caste continues even after conversion, but said that there was not enough evidence that Dalit Christians after conversion are socially and economically as backward as Dalit Hindus. The Soosai judgment goes against Article 15(1) of the Constitution, which prohibits discrimination based on religion. 19. The Church, by any measure, cannot fully provide compensatory justice to Dalit Christians who have been forced to live as outcastes for thousands of years; but it has the capacity to negotiate and prevail over the political leadership using all the resources within its reach. The Catholic Church is committed to intensify its efforts in support of the Dalit Christians’ struggle for justice, equality and empowerment. 20. As indicated by various studies the common forms of untouchability faced by Scheduled Caste converts include discrimination suffered at common water sources (22 per cent), at 9 school (12 per cent), in intermarrying with Dalit converts, etc. A large majority of Dalit Christians were of the view that there was no significant difference in the attitude of the Hindus towards Dalits in general or towards Dalit converts. Unfortunately, caste mentality has persisted even among some of the Christians8 . 21. Antony Raj in Discrimination against Dalit Christians in Tamil Nadu (IDEAS, Madurai, 1992) identified a number of discriminatory practices in the Church. According to the survey conducted by AIACHE in 2001, the number of Scheduled Caste students in Church-run colleges was not at a desirable level9 . Given the importance of education and professional skills, all-out efforts must be made to create conditions enabling Dalit students to enter our educational institutions. 22. Prof. Satish Deshpande observes: “There can be no doubt whatsoever that Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians are socially known and treated as distinct groups within their own religious communities. Nor is there any room for disputing the fact that they are invariably regarded as ‘socially inferior’ communities by their coreligionists.” 10 “Dalit Christians in urban India are even worse off relative to other Christians than their rural counterparts. Rural Dalit Christians have a much higher illiteracy rate, and much smaller proportion of graduates. Urban Dalit Christians are also in much the same situation. In Monthly Percapita Consumption Expenditure (MPCE) Dalit Christians are considerably worse off than their non-Dalit co-religionists. Indeed, the differences are so great that Dalit Christians may almost be living in a different world from other Christians.” 11 “Universally practiced forms of discrimination and exclusion include social and cultural segregation, expressed in various forms of refusal to have any social interaction; endogamy, expressed through the universal prohibitions on Dalit-non-Dalit marriages and through severe social sanctions on both Dalits and non-Dalits who break this taboo. Social segregation extends to the sphere of worship and religious rituals, with separate churches and priests being almost the norm among Dalit Christians. Subordination in churches as well as insistence on separate burial grounds is not uncommon. Occupational segregation and economic exploitation are also very common and usually related practices, though somewhat less widespread than segregation or marriage bans.12 23. Dalit Christians are the majority in the Catholic Church.13 But 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”. 24. Dalits are about 12 million out of 19 million members of the Catholic Church. However, among the Major Superiors, priests and religious they are not proportionately represented. It is pertinent to note that the first bishop from Dalit community was appointed in 1977. At present, there are 12 bishops from Dalit community.14 In recent years, there is an increase in vocations from Dalit communities. 10 25. Various efforts made by the Church and Dalit organisations, in particular Dalit Christian organizations have facilitated the articulation of the plight of Dalit Christians within the Church and in relation to the State. There is wider acceptance that the practice of untouchability and discrimination against Dalits exist in the Church and there is need to address these issues urgently. There is also now more acceptance of the rights and dignity of Dalits at least at the ideological and theoretical level. 26. Overt forms of practices of untouchability and discrimination have considerably reduced. There is greater awareness of self-dignity, access to public space and demand for equal participation and share in resources. In a sense, the Church structures have been sensitized and the younger generation is growing with a much higher sense of dignity and self-worth. 27. Changes made in the policy of education, especially in admission and appointment, have given new opportunities for Dalit Christians and many, for the first time, have been able to enter the portals of Catholic educational institutions. The new generation is looking for opportunities to develop its skills and is ready to take risks to fulfil its basic needs. 28. The vocations to priesthood, brotherhood and women religious are increasing. It needs to be appreciated that there is an increasing awareness to promote vocations among Dalit Christians and a number of congregations take up a special vocation promotion drive in areas where predominantly Dalit Christians live which needs to be appreciated. 29. Changes introduced in the liturgy, as a result of growing new theological understanding, have contributed greatly in the faith formation of the Christians. Serious and conscious efforts were made by the Catholic Church to look into the Catholic faith from Dalit point of view and how God intervenes in history, in and through the suffering and cry of the poor and the marginalized. This has given birth to courses on Dalit philosophy and Dalit theology in seminaries and formation houses. 30. It is nevertheless a reality that newer forms of discrimination have come into being. Since there is inadequate representation in seminaries in appointments to key positions and in sharing of common resources in the religious orders and in the Church in general, efforts need to be made to remedy the situation given the importance of good priests and religious for the mission of the Church. 31. Dalits are also deprived access to social, economic and educational benefits, especially in courses which are job-oriented or in demand. There is little opportunity for students of the first generation. Instead of supporting and accompanying, especially in courses which are in demand, sometimes there is outright denial of admission alleging incapacity and unsuitability. 32. Despite possessing commendable credentials, the fact of being a Dalit – Dalitness – is considered as inferior. This mindset is against the core belief of Christianity, that every 11 human person is created in the image of God. While the term caste Hindu may be justified, caste Christian is simply self-contradictory, to say the least. 33. Sometimes there is failure in redressing genuine concerns and grievances of Dalits that are brought to the fore and limitations in addressing them in a spirit of fraternal dialogue. It is deplorable that instead recourse is taken to police and legal action. 34. Dalit leadership is not sufficiently recognised and promoted. Instead of nurturing and cherishing leadership from below, in some instances, the traditional casteist approach is adopted to divide the faithful by some vested interest groups. 35. Economic empowerment is the need of the hour. The Church through its social work wings such as Caritas India and Diocesan Multi-Purpose Social Service Societies does much for the Dalits. However much could have been done to promote Dalit entrepreneurship. 36. The Church has moved on from being content with doling out some schemes and programmes to developing a deeper understanding of the causes and manifestations of deprivation, discrimination and exclusion of Dalit Christians within the Church, by the larger society and by the State. The emergence of Dalit movements and Dalit Christian movements and assertion of Dalit rights from the human rights perspective have contributed enormously in this journey. It is high time that every Christian goes through a process of metanoia (repentance), imbibing the mind and heart of Jesus (cf. Phil 2:5) in building God’s kingdom here on earth where all of us can, in one voice, call God our Mother and Father. Growing Dalit Consciousness 37. Atrocities and violence have not deterred the emerging Dalit consciousness. The birth centenary of Dr Ambedkar in 1991 and a decade later in 2001 the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, held at Durban, were watershed moments in Dalit assertion. These two events provided the necessary impetus for various Dalit and human rights organizations to bring to global consciousness the appalling status of Dalits in India. 38. The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu noted at the conference: “India was at the forefront of the struggle against apartheid and expressed the belief that the Indian people would want to end the scourge of caste discrimination. I still hope that this is so, and I strongly urge the Indian Government and my own government to endorse international efforts to end the practice of ‘untouchability’, which is a blot on humanity. Such support would be a boost to the struggle for Dalit rights, not only in India, but all over the world.” 15 12 39. The Indian political class engages in aggressive economic reforms, blissfully oblivious of social stigmatization and spreads a false paradigm of development that growth in gross domestic product will set right social relationships. Evidence shows that the casteist mindset continues to derail the constitutional liberating vision of India built on justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity.16 40. Despite the casteist, arrogant mindset of the State, individuals, activists, academicians, human rights defenders, Dalit organizations and people’s movements continue to highlight the hidden realities of Dalits by educating, agitating and organizing Dalit bahujan (oppressed communities). III. Journey of the Catholic Church in Empowering Dalit Christians 41. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Goa was established in 1533. The Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier arrived in Goa in 1542 and preached along the coastal areas. Dalits, who were experiencing the iron grip of the caste system and were being treated worse than animals by the casteist society which followed Manu Shastra which legitimized the iniquitous caste system on the basis of Hindu Scriptures, embraced Christianity as an act of social protest and religious prophetic action as they envisioned a new dignified life in following Jesus, the Saviour of all, imparting the fullness of life. This paved the way for Dalit conversions. 42. The Jesuit missionary Robert De Nobili came to India in 1605 and established the Roman Catholic Madurai Mission. He was followed by missionaries like John de Britto and Joseph Constantine Beschi, who contributed a lot for the growth of the Church in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in India. They, and many other missionaries and eventually the local clergy, barring a few,17 followed the policy of accommodation18 of the caste system in Christianity. Caste was considered to be a social factor to be tolerated in the effort for evangelization. However, within both the Catholic and Protestant Churches there were several individuals who took a strong stand against caste discrimination, condemning caste as a cancerous and monstrous evil. 43. When the toleration of caste discrimination became widespread, the oppressed people demanded equality in the Church. The Synod of Pondicherry was organized in 1844 to foster harmony between Dalit Christians and caste Christians. Later, on 15 January 1925, the Scheduled Caste (Dalit) Christian Welfare Association sent a memorandum to the Vicar Apostolic to India, Bishop Alexius Maria Henry Lapier, to look into the discriminatory practices adopted by the “dominant castes” in the Church. 44. To understand and address the plight of Christians of Scheduled Caste Origin (CSCO), who suffered from double discrimination (on account of religion and caste), the First 13 National Convention, inviting members and leaders from all the Churches was organized by the National Biblical Catechetical and Liturgical Centre (NBCLC) in June 1978, under the joint auspices of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) and the All India Catholic Union (AICU). 45. Acknowledging that Dalits are victims of double injustice, the convention called upon the Churches in India to address this question with a renewed commitment to ensure that the resources of the Churches, such as schools, colleges, technical institutes, hospitals and dispensaries, etc. would be used on a priority basis for the integral development of Christians of Scheduled Caste origin. The convention also emphatically urged the leaders to ensure adequate representation for Dalits in Church-run institutions in admission and appointments, allocation of Church resources, motivating and encouraging the young to join seminaries and convents and protesting against the denial of equal rights and benefits by the State. It gave a clarion call to the entire Christian community to rally around these concerns and launch united action to address them. 46. To initiate a structured and systematic response, the General Body Meeting of the CBCI, held at Ranchi in 1979, decided to set up a Special Desk to study the problems of the Christians of Scheduled Caste Origin and Tribes which was accordingly established at the CBCI Centre, New Delhi. 47. The CBCI General Body, which met at Tiruchirapalli in 1982, unequivocally condemned the sinful caste system. “Caste with its consequent effects of discrimination and ‘caste mentality’ has no place in Christianity. It is, in fact, a denial of Christianity because it is inhuman. It violates the God-given dignity and equality of the human person. Human dignity and respect are due to every person and denial of this is a sin against God and man. It is an outright denial of the fatherhood of God.” 48. In 1986, the CBCI General Body Meeting, held in Goa, raised the Special Desk to the status of a Commission for SC/ST/BC19, and invited all dioceses to create commissions for SC/ST/BC, to be animated and coordinated by the CBCI Commission 49. At its plenary assembly in Shillong in 1989, the CBCI strongly opposed the denial of rights and benefits to the Christian Dalits granted to other Dalits. “The Christians of Scheduled Caste origin have a double discrimination, as due to the Presidential Order of 1950, they are excluded from the benefits which the Constitution of India guarantees to their counterparts in the Hindu and Sikh religion,20 while like their Hindu brothers and sisters they suffer the brunt of caste discrimination. Converts to Catholicism from among them had hoped for a status of equality, but the structured inequalities practised in Hinduism continue to be reflected and imposed in the new faith.” 50. A decade later, in 1998, the CBCI at its General Body Meeting held at Varanasi, reiterated that discrimination on the basis of Caste is a sin and made a fervent appeal that 14 the Church take concrete steps to end this evil through education and enlightenment of its members. “This must be taught in catechism and homilies and any form of discrimination must be completely stopped, wherever it exists, be it among the priests, in religious communities, in practices of selection of candidates for priesthood and religious life and in the sphere of administration.” 51. In 2000, the Conference of Religious of India, meeting in Chennai, committed itself to work for the development of Dalit Christians by opening up the infrastructural facilities run by its members. Subsequently a few religious orders initiated policies, systems and mechanisms for the empowerment of Dalit Christians in their institutions. 52. In 2002, the CBCI General Body, meeting at Jalandhar, in solidarity with the Dalits committed to give them a share in the resources of the Church “Dalits and tribals are politically exploited, educationally most backward and are socially discriminated against. In this situation of appalling poverty of the vast majority of the people in India, the Church has to become not just a Church for the poor but the Church of the poor.” The meeting also declared that “the resources of the Church would be made available for the educational empowerment of Dalits, the tribals and the women. Training and educational opportunities both for jobs and appropriate leadership roles will be offered to the Dalits and Tribals” 53. Over the last few decades, the Church leaders in collaboration with other Christian communities and people of goodwill have been organizing demonstrations, protests, rallies and campaigns in the national capital and in various state capitals, cities and villages to conscientize the nation on Dalit issues. Ecumenical delegations met various political party leaders to gather support. Signature campaigns were initiated to press for their demands with decision-makers. Since 2010 Black Day has been observed on 10 August every year to express discontent about the status of Dalits in the nation. Since 1992 Justice Sunday was observed as Dalit Liberation Sunday. Later from 2000 it has been observed annually on a Sunday close to the International Human Rights Day on 10 December. Celebrated jointly by the CBCI and NCCI it intends to raise awareness in the Christian community about the dignity, the rights and the culture of the Dalit and Dalit Christians. 54. In 2004 the CBCI filed a Writ Petition in the Supreme Court (180 / 2004) to demand justice for Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims. The Justice Ranganath Misra Commission in its report, submitted to the central government in 2007, emphatically recommended that Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims must be granted equal rights with other Dalits and Government must repeal the Presidential Order of 1950 paragraph 3. 15 55. The CBCI also made a definitive commitment for the educational uplift of Dalits, clearly articulating its position while promulgating the All India Catholic Education Policy, 2007. It stated: “No Catholic child, Dalit/tribal or otherwise, should be deprived of quality education because of a lack of means”. (CBCI 2006, 8.1) “Those disadvantaged, socially, physically or intellectually, will be specially assisted so that they can be integrated into the educational system. We make this preferential option, even if in this process academic results suffer. All Catholic schools, whether run by dioceses, the religious, corporate bodies or individuals, are expected to participate in this project.” (CBCI 2006, 8.3) 56. At the regional level, the Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council (TNBC) began affirmative action by declaring the Dalit Decade in 1990 in the Catholic Church in Tamil Nadu. TNBC launched a ten-point programme, a sort of Magna Carta, for the empowerment of Dalit Catholics in a phased manner. The programme aimed at removing discrimination against Dalits in all areas of life and also emphasised the need for special assistance, preference in appointments and special projects for social development. 57. In 2004, the TNBC re-launched it with concrete and specific initiatives and declared it as the Eight-point Programme for the Integrated Development and Empowerment of Dalit Catholics. 58. The Catholic Church has not carried on its work for the Dalits in isolation. Other agents also contributed to this faith journey. Among them, Dalit Christian Liberation Movement (DCLM), began in 1980s, forcefully brought the prevailing discriminatory caste practices and consciousness within the Church to the centre stage. The Christian Dalit Liberation Movement (CDLM) from other Churches also initiated debates on Dalit ideology, Dalit theology and Dalit spirituality to unite Dalit Christians, emphasising the biblical message: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28-29). 59. The CBCI also supported the National Council of Dalit Christians (NCDC), an organization initiated by the laity, working at the national level with grassroots linkages, especially for the equal rights of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims, along with the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) and Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI). 60. In the last three decades, the CBCI Commission for SC/ST/BC has organized several consultations, seminars and conferences for promoting the rights and development of Dalits and other marginalized communities in partnership with regional bodies of the CBCI, other Christian communities and likeminded faith-based and secular organizations. (Among these was the national seminar, “Building Inclusive Communities through Dalit Empowerment”, held at NBCLC, Bangalore, 6-8 March 2009.) Various animation programmes have helped in forming committed leadership, integrated development of Dalits/tribals and in fostering fraternity within the Church. An attempt has also been made 16 by the Commission to promote the education for development of Dalits to enter the civil services in the country. 61. Dalit Christians long for Biblical justice. Justice is central to the Biblical teaching. Biblical justice is the activity of God setting right what has gone wrong. “The Lord performs righteous deeds and judgements for all those who are oppressed” (Ps 103:6) This justice is the distinguishing characteristic of God in the Bible. Hence injustice and oppression are violation of God’s nature. In the New Testament, the Sermon on the Mount reaffirms this theme of justice (Mt 5:17-6:18). “The Gospels do not speak to us of justice simply as a human virtue, but as justice of the Kingdom, the source of which is God, and the violation of which is not social injustice, but above all a sin (an assault) against God.”21 IV. Biblical-Theological Basis for Building Inclusive Communities Programmatic Mission of Jesus of God’s Reign 62. The programmatic summary of Jesus’ ministry runs as follows: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (Lk 4: 18-19 Cf. Is 61: 1-2). In proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favour, Jesus recalls to mind the jubilee year mentioned in the Book of Leviticus, chapter 25. It speaks about debts to be remitted, slaves to be set free and land sold or lost for any reason to be restored to the original owner in the envisaged jubilee year. The vision behind this is to build an egalitarian and an inclusive community of God’s reign, where God alone will be the Father and all others will be His children without any room for any kind of discrimination. 63. The Good News to the poor is the privileged place given to them in God’s reign. It is graphically brought out by Jesus in the Zacchaeus narrative that only in sharing out of love with the poor and restituting to the exploited for the injustice done to them, one enters into God’s reign. The effect of Zacchaeus’ dramatic encounter with Jesus was his real conversion (metanoia) in favour of the poor as he says, “…. I will pay back four times as much”. Then Jesus said to him, “Salvation has come to this house…”. (Lk 19: 8- 10). One enters into the community of God’s reign only by sharing with and restitution to those sinned against namely the poor in general and Dalits in particular, who have suffered the stigma of untouchability inflicted on them. 64. The precursor John the Baptist preached social ethics of sharing with the poor and doing no injustice to them (Lk 3: 10-14). Baptised by John the Baptist, Jesus’ identification with the poor and the marginalised and the sinners brought him into great conflict with the rich, the powerful and the leadership of his time. This conflict finally led him to the cross. 17 The Christian Journey in Continuity with Jesus Event 65. As disciples of Christ we have been called upon by the Lord of History to fight against the indifferent attitude and apathetic indolence towards the plight of Dalits (Rev 3:14-22; Ex 3:7-12) who have been excluded in all walks of life through the systemic evil of casteism and the sinful practice of untouchability. The God of compassionate justice sent his only beloved Son in our midst in continuity with the Exodus event accomplishing salvation of mankind giving us the fullness of life. 66. All these salvific interventions seeking to integrate all things and all people in Christ (Eph 1:10) are the continual divine efforts towards the creation of a New Heaven and a New Earth (Rev 21:1). In this project, all humans have been created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26-27; Gaudium et Spes, nn. 11, 29). Hence each of us has been bestowed with the divine gift of human dignity as our birthright. And if we have been immersed into the waters of baptism how could we simultaneously be immersed into the waters of casteism? If we are rooted in Christ, how could we bear the evil fruits of caste discrimination (Gal 3:26-28)? 67. In (2015) Declaring an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis announced, “Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love.” (Misericordiae Vultus #10) Faithful Justice of the Compassionate Lord 68. The God of Holiness rejoices in the act of community building from all sectors of people irrespective of their creed, code, cult, colour, culture, or caste. All those who indulge in community-dividing in the name of tradition, religion, culture, and caste cannot find favour with the God of Justice. As per the demands of the Incarnational Intervention, all the pinnacles of power will be demolished, the valleys of emptiness will be filled in, and all those driven away by caste tyranny as “lesser humans” will be empowered as community builders. This is how the God of Assertive Justice and Faithful Righteousness will enable His people to relish the Eucharistic Communion with one and all. 69. The victims of untouchability and casteism are enslaved due to the ill-treatment meted out to their God-given human dignity. Those who reap the privileges of casteism are enslaved due to the deprivation of the God-given capacity to become co-humans with others. When the annihilation of the caste system would become a historical reality, both the victims and the caste-minded could exuberantly rejoice: “The Lord has done great things for us.” The other nations could also proclaim, “The Lord has done great things for them” (Ps 126:1-2). 70. Before cherishing the harvests of the splendorous glory of divine justice of creating a culture of communion, all of us need to be open to be transformed by God to rise against 18 the evils of casteism and the practice of untouchability in an organized way. This can bring suffering and pain. However, this could be considered as the ‘sowing in tears’ which would result in ‘songs of joy’ for the liberation of the oppressed (Cfr.Ps 126:4-6). The community-building Gospel and the community-dividing casteism are eternally incompatible. The God of Life and the Satan of Death can never shake hands as allies even temporarily. With this deep insight of divine courage and discerning wisdom let us hope that our genuine Christian compassion “may increase ever more and more” (Phil 1:9) for keeping on building inclusive communities by breaking every trace of casteism. 71. Our partnership with the Gospel of Christ (Phil 1:4) should never permit us to proceed with any tendency of lording it over others in the name of culture, caste, gender, or language (Mt 20:25-26). In the history of India, God has initiated great trends of strengthening the victims of untouchability and weakening of caste-based practices. May the Lord of History, who began this good work in us of interrogating, resisting, negating, and annihilating the immoral practice of untouchability and the evil practice of casteism bring this great deed to completion before Christ our Lord of Justice (Phil 1:6). And thus, the Word of God dispels powerfully the roots of prejudice, the fortresses of discrimination, customs of oppression, and conventions of domination. Promoting an egalitarian Culture through the power of the Eucharist and abolishing the Caste System 72. The marginalized in the socio-cultural and politico-economic realms have often been dubbed as sinners (moral realm) by the Pharisaic-Brahminic cultures. But in the Eucharist such deplored lots are embraced as “my sheep” (Jn 10:1-15), “blessed are you who are poor (in spirit)” (Lk 6:20; Mt 5:3), and “little ones” (Mk 9:36-37). 73. The Samaritan women and men, relegated as untouchable creatures by the self-styled puritans, are looked upon by the Eucharistic ethos as respectable dialogical partners (Jn 4:1-42). The utmost humanitarian sensitivity of the “untouchable” Samaritan to reach out to the faceless and nameless victim on the roadside is emphasized in contrast to the selfdesignated “purity” of the Jewish priest and the Levite (Lk 10:25-37). Jesus’ sensitivity has the courage to publicly acknowledge the Samaritan’s spiritual dignity in gratefully acknowledging the gift of healing received from the divine (Lk 17:11-19). 74. When Jesus’ disciples wish to call “fire from heaven” over the Samaritans for not readily welcoming the people of Jewish origins into their villages, they are educated with a rebuke in line with the same ethos (Lk 9:51-55). Similarly, Jesus accepts the great faith of the gentile Canaanite woman and grants her petition (Mt 15:21-28; Mk 7:24-30). In the first Eucharist Jesus willingly offers himself to cleanse the dirty feet of the friends-to-besent-as-servants (Jn 13:1-11), emphasising that the “servants are not greater than the master” (Jn 15:20). 19 75. These Eucharistic life orientations are the antidotes to the existing diabolical systems of casteism and untouchability. All these dimensions of the Eucharistic commitment should inspire everyone to identify the divine elements operative in the most deprived namely Dalits in the Indian Church. In the light of the life-giving faith of the woman suffering from the evil of social death recognized by Jesus (“Daughter, your faith has made you well” – Mk 5:34), the Indian Church appreciates the faith of Dalits subjected to the evil of untouchability. The resurrection of the deadened creatures of the Indian caste-ridden society has to be the outcome of the Eucharistic intervention. Breaking the Boundaries for Building Inclusive Communities 76. In the conflict-ridden times of Jesus, the matrix of the intervention of the Eucharistic Lord is never on behalf of the power brokers like Herod the fox, the Torah-obsessed custodians of culture, the real estate owners, the pontificating intelligentsia, and the business-minded clergy of the Temple. Jesus rather stands for the wounded among the ochlos (literally, the crowd, multitude, common people and mob, referring to the unorganized and faceless masses of people whose relentless labour is awarded with only ignominy and anonymity) with no bargaining powers in all walks of life. Jesus created a new bond of union even with strangers and aliens by asking “Who are my mother and my brother?” (Mk 3:33) and by saying, “Woman, here is your son … Here is your mother” (Jn 19:26-27). These networks of organic relationship based on divine love transcend every form of biological, cultural, geographical, national, ethnic, and caste affiliations. 77. Our Saviour was crucified for being a pro-ochlos person by the organized infrastructure of the powers in alliance with Mammon, bowing to colonial hegemony, following the murderous traditions of a heartless judiciary, egged on by crowds of stooges, supported by a torturing military, and with conspiracy of a sadistic intelligentsia. These could not accept the message of unconditional love and forgiveness whose principal beneficiaries were the sinners, the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized. This was a heavy price paid by “the logos” (the Word) for pitching His” (meaning flesh or human nature), striking roots among “the most vulnerable”, disparagingly counted as “the most polluted” (Jn 1:14). 78. As stated by the second Vatican Council “Today in many places we hear a call for greater security. But until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples is reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode.” (Evangelii Gaudium, no. 59) A way has to be found to do away with the culture of blaming Dalits and to demolish the attempts of perpetuating the practice of casteism and untouchability. This has to be replaced with the culture of humanitarian intervention and divine healing (Jn 9:1-7). 20 “In the present condition of global society, where injustices abound ... the principle of the common good immediately becomes a summons to build solidarity with the poorest of our brothers and sisters.” (Laudato Si, no. 158) The Christian faith is not narrowly sacramental, or simply cultic, spiritual, and heavenoriented. It simultaneously demands commitment to societal well-being, ensuring a community of human beings living in peace, justice and equality and thus prefiguring the heavenly city. 79. The egalitarian way of life and the inspiring table fellowship radically promoted by the Eucharist are betrayed by the practice of untouchability and the evil of casteism (Acts 2:42-47; 1 Cor 11:17-34). Social discrimination against the gentiles was nipped in the bud (Acts 10: 34 and 11: 18) in the early Christian communities. The dominant culture of lording it over others in the name of traditional culture is demolished by the culture of washing the feet of others, especially the least and the last (Mk 10:33-45; Jn 13:1-16). The Jubilee Year of Mercy seeks intervention of the compassionate love of God into our broken human history (Is 62:1-4; Lk 4:16-20) to promote creative justice for lasting reconciliation, with permanent healing in the New Heaven and New Earth (Is 11:1-9; Rev 21:1-8). V. Roadmap for the Future 80. The scheme of the Constitution reflects a three-pronged strategy for changing the status of Dalits based on the traditional social order. This consists of a. Protection from disabilities and enforcing punitive action against violence and discrimination; b. Compensatory discrimination22, including reservation provisions in public services, representative bodies and educational institutions;23 and c. Development, to bridge the wide gap between the Scheduled Castes and other communities in their economic conditions and social status, covering allocation of resources and distribution of benefits.24 In the context of the State’s social and transitional25 justice paradigm, the ethical imperative to devise vision-inspired roadmap in building the kingdom of God becomes all the more urgent for the Church in India. 81. In this regard, the CBCI asserts through this policy that the term ‘Dalit’ does not indicate a negative connotation or a caste identity. It rather seeks to restore an affirmative, humanizing and empowering identity which is a demand of our faith. Thus, it is not only a matter of sociological and cultural category but a theological category as well. 21 Rooted in the Gospel Values and Steered by the Constitutional Principles 82. Dalit Christians keep alive the vision of God’s reign for justice and love. They boldly call upon the Church to place justice and love, the core values of the Bible, at the heart of its mission. For without commitment to justice and love, there is no real and authentic knowledge of the biblical God (Jer 22:16; 1 Jn 4:7-8). The concepts such as right to development, human rights perspective, development for all, diversity and social inclusion, positive discrimination and linkage to human rights standards will help the Church to deepen its commitment in this regard. 83. Pope Francis calls for solidarity and preferential option for the poorest of the poor. Dalits are among the poorest of the poor. The Pope’s call for common good as an ethical imperative vibrates with Dalits’ struggles for an egalitarian society. The Pope notes: “… where injustices abound and growing numbers of people are deprived of basic human rights and considered expendable, the principle of the common good immediately becomes, logically and inevitably, a summons to solidarity and a preferential option for the poorest of our brothers and sisters. This option is in fact an ethical imperative for effectively attaining the common good.” (Laudato si, 2015, No. 158) 84. This is an invitation to all of us to experience communion and fellowship in the Church to make Jesus’ prayer – that they all may be one – a living reality (Jn 17:21-23). The Church has to be ever open to this ideal in its thinking, proclamation and action. Engaging in Dalit Christian struggle to build an egalitarian society is a call and grace to the Church. Equal Rights of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims 85. Dalit Christians have remained faithful in the midst of hardships, obstacles and oppression because of their faith. They are several times discriminated against – by the secular State depriving them of the economic benefits on a purely religious basis in violation of Articles 15 and 25 of the Constitution and non-protection under the Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989. Yet, by and large, Dalit Christians heroically hold on to the Christian faith, the latest example being the Kandhamal massacre of Dalit and tribal Christians. It is the responsibility of the Church to work for equal rights of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims in collaboration with all citizens of goodwill who believe in secularism. All efforts must be made by the Church to attain this. From local to national and international levels, the entire Christian community has to get involved in the struggle, as faith-inspired prophetic action. Reinforcing Educational and Economic Empowerment 86. Education is a significant social indicator which has a bearing on the growth and achievement of an individual and the community as it enhances the employment opportunities and thereby improves the quality of life. Owing to lack of educational 22 opportunities, many Dalit Christians are vulnerable to exploitative employment. Most of them work in the unorganized sector or as contractual and daily labourers. 87. The new generation among Dalit Christians is searching for quality educational training and is ready to venture into new fields and seek employment opportunities. However, due to lack of guidance, motivation, training, and especially financial support, the dreams and aspirations of many of the youth are structurally nipped in the bud. It is time that at every level the Church administration makes available its resources for the educational and economic empowerment of Dalit Christians. Developing Lay Leadership for Political Action 88. Obtaining equal rights for Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims and abolition of practices of untouchability, discrimination and exclusion cannot be realized except through policy changes, and advocacy efforts with the State, bureaucracy, judiciary, media, and police. We have to develop a competent and cohesive leadership, comprising of women and men, to engage in such frontier missions of the Church. These leaders will be able to make a big difference at the grassroots, within the Church and at the national level reaching out to political and social forces. Strengthening Implementation Strategies and Monitoring Mechanisms 89. In order to do away with a major lacuna of the past, this policy is to be implemented with rigour. Those in governance structures are invited to create fair and just implementation strategies and monitoring mechanisms at the parish, vicariate, diocese, regional, and national levels. Promoting Accountability and Transparency Mechanisms 90. It is of great significance that we develop accountability and transparency mechanisms to ensure quality deliverables. Every Christian has the right to know the plans of the Church in this regard. By being transparent, we will allow ourselves to be constructively challenged by the faithful so that with dialogue and mutual understanding we will realize the plans we propose. It will be highly useful that all our plans and programmes reach all the Christians. We should also develop the practice of reporting to the people so that solidarity actions are strengthened for the benefit of all. 23 Building Solidarity Platforms to Strengthen the Common Good 91. Solidarity has been described by Pope John Paul II as “a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common goal” (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis – SRS, 38). It begins with compassionate love which enables every Christian to enter into the inner world of Dalit sisters and brothers where they are broken, wounded, discriminated against, humiliated, lonely, not accepted and respected as equal human beings and assures them of being with them in their suffering. Compassionate love motivates one to understand the root causes scientifically and arouses them to righteous action. Love implies an absolute demand for justice – namely, recognition of the dignity and rights of one’s neighbour (Justice in the World, Synod of Bishops, 1971, No. 34). 92. Awakened by the universal love command of Jesus (Mk 12:28-34) a new awareness sets in to bear witness to the Gospel values, to see the world with the mind and heart of Jesus and to accept the liberating leadership of the marginalized to carry the Cross towards the joy of Easter with deep conviction. In solidarity with the awakened Dalits and people of goodwill, every Christian is asked to engage in continuous struggle against the sinful caste structure (SRS, 38), which becomes the common enemy not only of Dalits but of all humans. The common good is to understand, appreciate and believe that what is best for the last and the least in society – the Dalits – is the best for all humans. Networking with People of Goodwill and Forging Alliances of the Marginalized 93. Establishing God’s reign of justice in this world cannot




Monday 12 December 2016 was a red letter day for 119 office-bearers of 48 parish units of the Bombay Catholic Sabha. The occasion was an Orientation Programme to chart the path for the Sabha in the new term 2016-19. Fr. Felix D’Souza, our Ecclesiastical Adviser, ignited the minds of the participants and placed the role and purpose of the BCS in perspective. To be effective in what we do, he elaborated on seven Effective Principles that we should follow and then followed it up with the seven Effective Habits that we should develop. He delivered the hour-long session in his own captivating style drawing from his own practical experiences and interspersing it with light humour. He concluded with a five point profile for every unit, which is: 1. Be the Voice of the Community 2. Be builders of Christian Leadership 3. Be the Link between the Church and Society 4. Be in Solidarity with all others through Networking 5. Be focused on targets to achieve the Vision The participants had a lively group discussion in their respective deaneries and proposed activities and programmes that they would take up to achieve the points above. These suggestions will be considered by the Executive Committee in drawing up an action plan for the next six months. The plans for Sabha Day (26 January 2017) were shared with the participants. The participants then partook of a sumptuous lunch.



Match Making Event

Catholic Association of Ahmedabad and Gujarati Catholic Samaj, jointly organized " A Jeevan Sathi Pasandgi Mela ( Match Making Event for Youth seeking Life Partner )" on 4th Dec. ( Sun ), 2016 at St. Xavier's High School, Loyola Hall, Ahmedabad. More than 80 youth, parents directly and more than150 indirectly participated in the event from all over Gujarat including Goa and Mumbai. This Lay Apostolic Church Mission was a grand success with the blessings and enthusiastic support of Rev. Fr. Micky, PP, Rev. Fr. Charles, Principal, St. Xavier's High School and Rev. Fr. Ambrose Dabhi, PP Mani Nagar, Ahmedabad. It may be noted that many of our youth marry out of the community as they do not find proper match within the community. This is our humble effort to provide a platform to our youth to find a partner from within the community. Kirit J. Macwan