Dalit Madonna by Jyoti Sahi
Christianity is bringing slow but lasting change to the lives of India’s Dalits or `untouchables,` especially for the community's women, who are often victims of prostitution and human trafficking - the Conference of Religious India (CRIB) report.
“The Dalits were told that they are less than animals and we tell them they are not, because they are made in the likeness of God. The simple message that every person is created in God’s image has transformed the lives of India’s Dalits. They are crying out for a change now that they know they can live differently,” said Jeevaline Kumar, head of Operation Mobilization’s Anti-Human Trafficking Project in Bangalore, Karnataka.
Roughly 250 million (around one quarter of the country’s population) are Dalits and live in utter poverty. It is Dalit women who bear the brunt of caste discrimination. And “the women are the Dalits of the Dalits, Many of them are forced into prostitution, either in a brothel or as a temple “devadasi. Three million people in India fall prey to sex-trafficking, 1.2 million of whom are children and 250,000 of whom are enslaved for “ritualized temple prostitution,” according to the Dalit Freedom Network.
“A little help can change the lives of these girls,” Kumar said. Her organization, which is just “one of many that works towards the same goal,” is striving to promote the message that “there is value in every human being” by responding to “Jesus’ mandate” to “love thy neighbour.”
Her work with the Tarika Institute, a school that trains women who have rescued from prostitution in tailoring, spoken English and computer skills, has been especially inspiring.“I have known God like never before, after I got involved in acts of justice, it really brings meaning and fulfillment in anyone’s life.” She continued.
Recently, Kumar helped organize a graduation ceremony for 106 women who completed courses with the Tarika Institute. “Many of them have come to tell me, ‘We have never been treated like this, we were treated like rubbish before and you honored us on stage,’” she said.
Source: Conference of Religious India