New Delhi (Fides Service) – “We are here as persons interested in Dalit problems and looking at the position of the Catholic Church there is a need to plan concrete strategies in this direction” said Bishop Chinnappa of Vellore at a meeting organised by the Commissions for Social Communications of the Indian Bishops’ Conference in Bangalore, 20 and 21 May.
The Church in India (2 % of a population of one billion) is two thirds Dalit. And Dalit in all India are 240 million, said Professor Valerian Rodrigues of Mangalore University. Life for Dalit peoples is precarious: untouchable, invisible, they are denied access to land, school, temples, they do the meanest jobs, they have no right to police protection: the men are often beaten, the women are raped or killed in total impunity of the attackers. The Dalit are a sort of social shock absorber on which all kinds of violence can be exerted, they are no economic weight for the community.
Speaking of the theme “Dalits Culture and Communications: Present Scenario and Response” Professor Rodrigues who is head of the department of political science, illustrated to those present – social activists, Dalit leaders, social thinkers and media persons – challenges faced by the Dalits in India today; growing poverty and marginalisation and threats to their specific culture and identity.
Speaking on Dalits and Media Rev. Isaac Kathiruvelo said that the Church should be an agent of change in the eradication of untouchability and attack the caste system for the hierarchy it breeds. He recommended that Pastoral Letters of Bishops in their dioceses should be on caste discrimination of Dalits and how it can be eradicated.
The consultation suggested that seminary and religious formation course be based on Dalit perspective to better understand and tackle Dalit issues and also that there should be proportionate participation of Dalits from hierarchy to laity in the Church (at present among 164 bishops only 7 are Dalit). The consultation selected slogans like “Caste Christians in No Christian”, “Education of Dalits is Birth Right” to be used on stickers and posters. The Commission for Social Communications, promoter of the event, stressed in a closing address the valuable role of the Catholic media to promote Dalit culture and development. PA (Fides Service 26/5/2003 EM lines 27 Words: 316)