Common Roots: Ancient Evangelical Future Conference

Indian church leaders denounce govt preferences for Hindus

‘We demand an end to using religion to divide us’ — Archbishop of Madras

Christians in Southern India have marked August 10 as a “black day” of shame to commemorate the Supreme Court ruling that held only Hindus could be could be classified as Dalits or untouchables and qualify for government protection as members of “Scheduled Castes”. In 1956 the Indian government recognized Hindu Dalits as a social class deserving government support, and in 1990 expanded the law to include Buddhists and Sikhs. Dalits who convert to Christianity or who were born Christian, along with Muslims, are excluded from the benefits provided to members of the Scheduled Castes. On 10 Aug 2016 the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore George Antony Samy released a statement saying: “We demand an end to using religion to divide us. Not just Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists, but also those from Islam and Christianity should be considered Scheduled Castes.” On 13 Aug 2016 the Rev. Sunil Raj Philip, Director of the Church of South India’s Dalit Concerns Department released a statement on Facebook calling for the inclusion of Christians and Muslims in the Scheduled Caste list.  He explained that the “impact of this order is that Dalit Christian and Dalit Muslim can not avail the affirmative action programmes of Government of India and various states on schedule caste, which includes reservation in education and employment of 15 % … These are the important provisions the Constitution provides for the under privileged communities in our country.” Mr. Philp wrote: “Because of this discrimination, Government indirectly forces marginalised people to be in Hindu Religion. They hesitate to choose any other religion which they may want to follow. It is in violation of freedom of Religion which is guaranteed in the Indian Constitution. This protest and struggle is the longest in India and the Dalit Christians and those who are in solidarity with them are really optimistic that the day of justice for them is not far and till that day they are committed to continue the struggle.”

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