ASIA/INDIA - The synod with the outcasts

Tuesday, 20 February 2024 dalit   marginalization   synodality  

Bangalore (Agenzia Fides) - The "outcasts", known as Dalits or "casteless", are those excluded from Indian society, marginalized by a caste system rooted for thousand of years. Although the Constitution has formally abolished this system, its influence persists in culture, mentality and daily practice. Since the arrival of the Christian message to the Indian subcontinent, the Catholic Church has constantly proclaimed the liberation, salvation and dignity of Dalits as children of God, maintaining this commitment today. Today, the Indian Catholic community wishes to integrate Dalits into the synodal process, seeking to hear their voices and walk alongside them. In recent days, the Indian Social Institute in Bangalore has organized the "synod of outcastes", an event jointly coordinated by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), Office for Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes, and the Tamil Nadu Bishops' Council, Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Dalit representatives from the states of Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Maharashtra, Odisha, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Telangana took part in this meeting.
In light of the 2016 "Dalit Empowerment Policy" of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, the national conference addressed the phenomenon of marginalization of Dalit Christians within the ecclesiastical and societal spheres.
The Dalit Christians become the victims of a system that refuses to recognize their dignity, respect and protection, and their representation is marginal even in the Catholic Church. In this context, Cardinal Anthony Poola highlighted that "all should be included in the mission of the Catholic Church so that no one is left behind in this process, especially the voice of the marginalized, who should be heard and participate in the Church". Bishop Sarat Chandra Nayak, President of the CBCI Office for Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes, has expressed his intention to revitalize the concept of synodality, which "involves sharing, dialogue, communication, communion, respecting each other, and giving dignity to all human beings. The time has come to discuss the policy of Dalit empowerment in the context of synodality," he said.
Father Cosmon Arockiaraj, a Dalit theologian, shared his thoughts and experiences, highlighting: "Building an inclusive community means children, women, and men from marginalized communities should be included and create opportunities and avenues for their inclusion with an open mind and spirit of synodality".
This spirit should not accept discrimination based on caste, ethnicity or social class, added theologian Father Arul Raja, and this is even more true for the church, noted Sister Sujata Jena, who lives on Odisha.
At the conclusion of the Synodal Conference, a "Memorandum" was drafted to be sent to the Indian Bishops' Conference and the Holy See, reiterating the urgency of using the opportunity of the Synodal process to include Dalits. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 20/2/2024)