2016-03-04 13:47:00

Dalit Christians complain to Jesuit general against discrimination in Church

India’s Dalit Catholics complained last week to the visiting Jesuit superior general about discrimination within the Catholic Church.  Jesuit Father Adolfo Nicolas, head of the Society of Jesus, who was on a visit to India, received their memorandum on Feb. 27 when he met a delegation from the Dalit Christian Liberation Movement in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.  M. Mary John, president of the movement, said they handed Father Nicolas the memorandum explaining the Jesuits are the Catholic Church’s largest congregation and that the pope himself is a Jesuit.  

Dalit in Sanskrit means "broken" or “downtrodden” and denotes former "untouchables" wo low in social status that they were considered outside the caste system of Hindu society. The ‎Indian Constitution has given special privileges to dalit, tribal groups and scheduled castes to ‎help them advance in socioeconomic areas.  A presidential notification limiting the privileges to ‎Hindus was twice amended to add Sikh and Buddhist dalit after they protested being ‎excluded.  But Christians and Muslims of low caste origin were excluded.  

Dalit Christians have repeatedly accused the Catholic Church in India of caste-based discrimination in terms of separate cemeteries and seating arrangements in churches.  John said that it is easy for the Jesuits to understand their plight because in Tamil Nadu they implemented policies that include providing equal opportunities to dalits in both education and employment.

In the memorandum, the delegation appealed for a strengthening of policies for dalits across the entire country.  The Dalit Christian Liberation Movement submitted a complaint last year to the United Nations, accusing the Vatican of not doing enough to curb caste-based discrimination within the Catholic Church in India.

Father Nicolas visited India Feb. 18 visiting the southern Indian Jesuit province of Andhra Pradesh and moved on to Madurai province in neighboring Tamil Nadu state Feb. 26.  In Andhra Pradesh, he met superiors of 18 Jesuit provinces and two regions in South Asia, that include India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan. The meetings are part of the general’s biennial visitation.  (Source: UCAN) 

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