Last week at a conference sponsored by the World Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches in India, 31 Indian churches condemned the continuing practice of caste discrimination in India particularly against those who are considered  “untouchables” (Dalits).

The churches in a joint ‘affirmation of faith’ condemned casteism as a:

“crime against human beings” and “sin, …and rebellion against God”.

Caste discrimination is still practiced in India today in spite of fact that India’s Constitution outlawed it in 1950.

The Christian leaders agreed to make Lent 2011 a time of “purging caste” discrimination from their own churches and community:

“We are ashamed that we as Christians have remained silent while our brothers and sisters have been violated and killed.”

Millions of Dalits, who rank lowest in the caste system, still suffer incredible discrimination in India and are among the poorest of the poor.

Response: This is actually real progress. A little history is in order here.

During the colonial period in India only the higher castes were welcomed or allowed to join a Christian church. Even today most of the leadership and members of the mainline Indian churches come from the higher castes.

Nevertheless, the greatest increases in Christian churches and communities in this generation have taken place among the lower castes and particularly the Dalits. Millions have come to Christ. Christianity has totally transformed entire Dalit communities.

Those increases have not come among the mainline churches but have been initiated and supported by mostly independent Pentecostal and Charismatic missionary organizations and churches.

This has not gone unnoticed and major persecution has risen up against the Dalit Christian communities spurred on by the Hindu Nationalist movement. Just last year over 140 churches were burned and more than 50,000 Christians in the state of Orissa were purged from their homes and communities by mobs who were supported by the Hindu authorities. Nobody really knows how many were killed and a year later thousands of Christians from Orissa remain homeless.

It is with this backstory that mainline Christians in India have repented of their own participation and tolerance of the caste system saying:

“We are ashamed that we as Christians have remained silent while our brothers and sisters have been violated and killed.”

This is real progress and is the beginning of real unity for all Christians of every caste in India.           

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