In a first, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), the apex decision-making body of the Christian community, has officially accepted that Dalit Christians do face untouchability and discrimination.
CBCI, which seeks to abolish all forms of exclusion of the socially backward section and empower them, in its policy document released on Monday, also stated that participation of Dalit Christians in the level of leadership… at the higher levels is almost nil.
The 44-page document, titled ‘Policy of Dalit Empowerment in the Catholic Church in India’, asks the 171 dioceses to submit long and short-term plans within a year to end all kinds of discrimination against Dalit Christians, The Indian Express reported.
“If there are dual practices based on caste discrimination, such practices should be stopped forthwith. In case of failure to do so, stringent measures should be taken by the Church authority concerned,” the document said.
“It’s a revolutionary step. We are admitting that it’s a grave social sin, an issue and a problem. It’s a sin, if you are going by the Christian spirit. This is a step to end the practice of discrimination within the church. It’s a message as well as an introspection,” the report quoted Baselios Cardinal Cleemis Catholicos, CBCI president as saying.
The policy document also admitted that although 12 million out of 19 million members of the Catholic Church in India are Dalit Christians, when it comes to “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”.
“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 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,” the document said.
The document also admitted that instead of nurturing Dalit leadership from below, a “traditional casteist approach is adopted to divide the faithful by some vested interest groups”.