Monday, April 17, 2006

Free the Dalits: Hope

Apologies for being gone last week. My takeaway is that childhood diseases, like strep throat, should not be allowed in adults. That's all I'm saying. But, I'm back upright, and can even speak a little again. So, back to my series on the Dalits. To refresh your memory, this is what we've covered to date:

Hope? There's hope? After all, I've already pointed out that, historically even many Christians and Muslims haven't shown much interest in abolishing caste. And despite the recent example of a Dalit ascending to India's presidency, the number of Dalits provided the opportunity to succeed, let alone thrive, remains abysmal. Fifty-some years after caste has been deemed illegal, the government still practices discrimination against Dalits - even in light of serious tragedy.

But hope there is. Dr. Joseph D'souza is the president of the All India Christian Council, and the Dalit Freedom Network. In his book, Dalit Freedom: Now and Forever, he outlines an agenda for moving Dalits into freedom. The steps he outlines are these:

  • Work with Dalit leadership in support of Dalit freedom. Dalits and their leaders are stepping up and demanding freedom; they can't, though, go it alone.

  • Provide English language education for Dalit children. English is the means by which Indians can find better jobs, ergo better lives.

  • Work with Dalit leadership to find an alternate spiritual ideology for Dalits, one that does not include oppression. Hinduism's ties to caste are leading large numbers of Dalits to leave that faith for others.

  • Address human rights violations against Dalits. Raising this with the U.N. is one means of doing this, raising awareness with the world another.

  • Affirm and redeem Dalit culture. Dalits shouldn't have to lose their culture to avoid oppression.

  • Utilize affirmative action programs to "catch up" Dalits. If used well, and not as a means of guilt-assuaging welfare, such systems can help provide opportunities as the next generation of Dalits becomes educated.

These are all worthy goals, and there is much we can do to help accomplish them. I'll discuss that tomorrow; indeed, we can do quite a bit, collectively, to provide hope for Dalits seeking true freedom.

Back in the first post in this series I talked about the story of the well. Dalits in many villages are not allowed to drink from the same well as upper caste members, or they must destroy any cups they use when drinking from public water sources so that upper caste members won't risk pollution by using a cup used by a Dalit. As Jennifer noted in her comment, this brings to mind another story of a well, and it is that story that I think brings the most hope for the Dalit people.

At that well, Jesus talks with a woman of ill reputation, an outcast from the chosen people of Israel, a Samaritan. He tells her that the savior has come, not just for the Jews, but also for her and her people. He tells His disciples that the harvest is ripe - and this as the Samaritans come to the well to hear this Jesus speak. Because they came to the well and heard Jesus, they believed and received the greatest freedom of all. It is this hope that I think is the greatest the Dalits (and all of us, really) have. The hope of freedom and salvation through Jesus Christ.

While we work to allow the Dalits to come freely to the well to drink water, a goal towards which we absolutely must strive, we should remember to offer them the living water from that other well. Therein lies the hope of us all.

Tomorrow I'll talk about ways you can help Dalits today take steps towards freedom and equality with all Indians, as well as resources for more information.

Until then, God bless.

1 comment:

Not Crunchy said...

Glad you are feeling better - wow, a whole week?

Thanks for the Dalit education.