Southwark: Conference on Christian responsibility to Dalits

Dalit Madonna

Dalit Madonna

A major two-day conference on Christian responsibility to Dalits and Caste discrimination will take place in Amigo Hall, St George’s Cathedral, Lambeth Road, London on 18 and 19 February.

The main speakers confirmed so far are: Lord Bishop Richard Harries (House of Lords) Lord David Alton (House of Lords) Bishop Patrick Lynch, (Catholic Bishops Conference of England & Wales-CBCEW) Bishop Pete Broadbent (Bishop of Willesden & Deputy Bishop, London) Bishop Sarat Chandra Nayak (Member Dalit Commission, CBCI- India)

Bishop Patrick Lynch Chair of the Office for Migration Policy, Member, CBCEW Department of International Affairs and Episcopal President of the Catholic Association for Racial Justice (CARJ). said: "Eleven years ago whilst visiting India, Pope John Paul recognised the challenge of responding to discrimination when he said to the Bishops of India: 'At all times you must continue to make certain that special attention is given to those belonging to the lowest castes, especially the Dalits. They should never be separated from other members of society. 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'.

"Those sentiments are echoed by Pope Francis in his recent Apostolic Exhortation- Evangelii Gaudium -when he stresses the importance of inclusion, peace and social dialogue as key elements of evangelization today when he says: 'Our Faith in Christ who became poor and was always close to the poor and the outcast, is the basis for the integral development of society’s most neglected members' (no. 186)."

On 11 December 2013, Indian police used extreme force against a peaceful Dalit Christian march outside Parliament House, New Delhi, India. Police rounded up the gathering, beat them with batons, and used water cannons of dirty water against thousands of demonstrators. Many Catholic Bishops of Catholic Church, as well as leaders from other denominations and the Archbishop of New Delhi, were assaulted and arrested. The National Dalit Christian Council (NCDC), consisting of all major Churches in India, organised the march.

Fr Gerard Mitchell SJ one of the conference organisers, wrote: "Fortuitously the theme of last week's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity coincided with efforts in the United Kingdom, to combat caste discrimination on the rise in the British-Asian community. Last Spring, UK's anti-discrimination Equality Act 2010, with caste as "an aspect of race", was amended, making it illegal.

Fr Mitchell explained that a number of meetings have been held in Southall to consider ways to support Dalits, both Christian and non-Christian, here and in South Asia. "Caste discrimination poisons the lives of millions of our brothers and sisters, strips them of status and keeps them in abject poverty."

Fr Mitchell said: "It is an opportunity and invitation to hear the voices of the Dalit struggle and to reflect upon how the words of Pope John Paul II might impact upon the Church in its work of evangelisation and the development of peoples. It will be an occasion to hear from those who speak powerfully and authoritatively, from national and international perspectives. We invite you and your organisations to participate."

For further Information: Email: [email protected]
Telephone: 07919247332. A £10 per person/ day contribution is requested.

Tags: Bishop Patrick Lynch, Bishop Pete Broadbent, Bishop Sarat Chandra Nayak, CARJ, Catholic Association for Racial Justice, CBCEW Department of International Affairs, Christian responsibility to Dalits and Caste discrimination will take place in A, conference on Dalits, Lord Bishop Richard Harries, Lord David Alton, Member, Office for Migration Policy, St George's Cathedral

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