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Indian Christians demand justice for Dalit Christians

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Dalit Liberation Sunday was marked across India on Nov. 11, recalling the 2008 anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal, and calling for an end to discrimination against Dalit Christians.

By Robin Gomes

India’s Catholics and Protestants jointly observed Dalit Liberation Sunday on November 11 with liturgy and activities calling for an end to

discrimination
suffered by Christians of lower-caste origins within the Christian community and in society.

Bishop Sarat Chandra Nayak of Berhampur, chairman of the Office for Scheduled Castes/Backward Classes of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), asked people to remember the 100 poor Christians killed in anti-Christian violence in Odisha state’s Kandhamal 10 years ago.

The observation is a “call to the whole Christian community to renew our faith, to awaken our consciousness to be the voice of the voiceless and to stand with vulnerable Dalits in society,” he said in his message.

Since 2007, the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), comprising Protestant and Orthodox Churches, and the CBCI has been jointly observing Dalit Liberation Sunday on the second Sunday of November.

Remembering Kandhamal 2008

The 2018 Dalit Liberation Sunday had as its theme, “As for Me and My Household, We will serve the Lord,” taken from the Book of Joshua.  It was also the theme of the

10th anniversary
observance of anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal.

Bishop Nayak and CBCI secretary-general Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas joined several bishops and priests for a liturgy in New Delhi, remembering the Dalit people through its readings, homily and prayers.

Two guest priests from Nyeri Archdiocese in Kenya were among the concelebrants.

Bishop Nayak said the anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal in 2008 was an expression of social intolerance against the empowerment of Dalits.

“They were very poor Dalits and tribals who were simply massacred. We cannot forget their witness of faith,” the bishop said.

Father Devasagayaraj Zackarias, secretary of the bishops’ office for Dalit and tribal people, told ucanews.com that parishes across India adapted the Sunday liturgy with a focus on Dalit rights and the discrimination they face in India.

He said discrimination against Dalit people is an issue for the whole Catholic Church and all churches in India.

Bishop Mascarenhas said the day is “important for us because at least once in a year we think of the Dalits in a more focused way. The one remembrance should last throughout the year.”

Pradip Bansrior, executive secretary of the NCCI office for Dalits and tribal people, told ucanews.com that “the concerns of Dalit people are an issue challenging the core of our faith and Gospel.” 

“Dalit”

The Sanskrit word Dalit, meaning “broken” or “trampled upon”, is a term used to denote people outside India’s rigid four-tier caste system, who were once considered untouchable.  Although untouchability was abolished in 1950, Dalit leaders say social discrimination persists in several forms.

Dalits have been shunned, deprived and exploited socially, economically, politically or otherwise through centuries. 

Hundreds of Dalits who joined Christianity to escape grinding poverty, exploitation and humiliation, are estimated to number some 30

percent
of India’s 27 million Christians. Together with tribal people, who also form about 30

percent
, these socially and economically poor groups constitute the majority of Indian Christians.

The ‎Indian ‎Constitution reserves special privileges and benefits such as quota in government jobs and educational institutions for Dalits, tribal groups and scheduled castes to ‎help their socio-economic uplift.

However, the Presidential Order of August 10, 1950, initially stated that “…no person who professes  a  religion  different from the Hindu  religion  shall  be deemed to be a member  of  a  Scheduled Caste.”   Subsequently, the Order was modified twice to include Sikhs (in 1956) and Buddhists (in 1990) after they protested, but Muslims and Christians of low caste origin have been excluded despite protests and petitions.

Discrimination within Church, society

Dalit Liberation Sunday aims to bring people’s attention to discrimination against Christian Dalit people, both within the Church and in society, Bishop Nayak said.

Dalit leaders complain they are not represented in most church decision-making bodies and face discrimination by being allotted separate parishes, feasts and localities, including exclusive spaces for them in churches and even some cemeteries within the Christian community.


NCCI general secretary Rev. Roger Gaikwad said the injustice of the caste system continues. “One keeps hearing stories of Dalits being denied access to well water, entry into temples, quality education and basic healthcare and employment opportunities. Women are being raped and Dalit men murdered.”

National Crime Records Bureau data showed that the number of crimes reported against Dalits rose from 38,670 in 2015 to 40,801 in 2016.  (Source: UCANEWS)

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CATHOLIC WORLD

Killing of Christians: Buhari lied to Trump – CAN fumes

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Killing of Christians: Buhari lied to Trump - CAN fumes

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has reacted to President Muhammadu Buhari’s revelation of his conversation with United States President, Donald Trump, on the massacre of Christians in Nigeria, saying President Buhari was economical with the truth.

President Buhari had on Tuesday, revealed that at the heat of the bloody clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria, the United States President, Donald Trump, unequivocally accused him of killing Christians.

Buhari said these in his closing remarks at the two-day ministerial performance review retreat held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Tuesday.

At a point, the President digressed from his prepared speech and narrated his encounter with Trump on the bloody clashes.

He said he managed to explain to the American leader that the clashes were not about ethnicity or religion.

He said, “I believe I was about the only African among the less developed countries the President of United States invited.

“When I was in his office, only myself and himself, only God is my witness, he looked at me in the face, and asked, ‘Why are you killing Christians?’

“I wonder, if you were the person, how you will react. I hope what I was feeling inside did not betray my emotion, so I told him that the problem between the cattle rearers and farmers, I know is older than me not to talk of him. I think I am a couple of years older than him.

“With climate change and population growth and the culture of the cattle rearers, if you have 50 cows and they eat grass, any root, to your water point, then they will follow it. It doesn’t matter whose farm it is.

“The First Republic set of leadership was the most responsible leadership we ever had. I asked the Minister of Agriculture to get a gazette of the early 60s which delineated the cattle route where they used meager resources then to put earth dams, wind mills even sanitary department.

“So, any cattle rearers that allowed his cattle to go to somebody’s farm would be arrested, taken before the court. The farmer would be called to submit his bill and if he couldn’t pay, the cattle would be sold, but subsequent leaders, the VVIPs (very important persons) encroached on the cattle routes. They took over the cattle rearing areas.

“So, I tried and explained to him (Trump) that this has got nothing to do with ethnicity or religion. It is a cultural thing.”

However, CAN’s Vice President and Chairman of the association in Kaduna State, John Hayab, was not impressed with Buhari’s submission, saying “Buhari and his government will never stop from amusing us with their tales by moonlight because what is happening in Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina, Birnin Gwari, Southern Kaduna, Taraba, Plateau and others cannot be described as a cultural thing.

He told Punch correspondent in an interview: “President Buhari’s weak story about his conversation with President Donald Trump further confirms why his government does not care about the killings in our country by calling them cultural things.

“Just this (Tuesday) evening, I received a report from the Kaduna Baptist Conference President about the number of their members that have been killed by bandits in Kaduna State from January 2020 to date to be 105 and our President will call it a cultural thing? All we can say is may God save our Nigeria.”

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Nuncio tasks clergy, laity on good stewardship

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Nuncio tasks clergy, laity on good stewardship

The Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria, Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi, has urged the clergy, religious and lay faithful to be trustworthy, transparent, selfless and generous stewards in the discharge of their duties in the Church, following the way of Jesus.

Archbishop Filipazzi made the call during the opening ceremony of the maiden General Assembly of the Abuja Archdiocese, which was held on at Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral, Friday September 4.

The General Assembly, with the theme “Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja: Together in Evangelization,” saw Bishops, priests, religious men and women, and the laity gathered together to discuss means of strengthening the faith of God’s people amid the ongoing Covid-19 health crisis.

Addressing participants, Archbishop Filipazzi said that “an administrator is neither a master nor a slave who cannot decide anything, but one who is given a responsibility by the Master.” In this light, the faithful are called to be “true administrators of divine mystery” entrusted to them by Our Lord, according to their varying roles in the Church.

The Apostolic Nuncio also said “differences must not lead to division,” as everyone, though different, must strive for unity since there is no room for divisions in the body of Christ.

Archbishop Filipazzi, speaking on the upsurge in violence in northern Nigeria in a Vatican News interview on 29 August, had also called for shunning divisions along religious and ethnic lines.

Rather, he appealed for “general respect of the law and general intervention of the government” in the violent attacks which have claimed many lives and caused massive material damage.

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Assumpta CMO raises fund to roof “St Joseph’s Hall of Faith”

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Assumpta CMO raises fund to roof “St. Joseph's Hall of Faith”

The Catholic Men Organization, CMO, Maria Assumpta Cathedral Parish Owerri, joined their counterparts in the Archdiocese to celebrate Father’s Day on Sunday, August 30.

The celebration earlier scheduled for May 10 this year was differed because of Covid-19 pandemic.

The occasion began with a Pontifical Mass presided over by His Grace, Most Rev. Anthony Obinna, Archbishop of Owerri cum Parish Priest of the Cathedral Parish.

In his homily, Archbishop Obinna called on Christians to live a life of witnessing to Christ at all times. He said that the zeal to preach the word of God is like a fire that burns inside the heart of a Christian and will not abate until one bears witness to Christ. This, he said, must be done in the course of our daily lives, in our places of work, in our families, among our friends, through living life that is Christ-like.

He congratulated the Christian fathers on the occasion and appealed for support to enable them complete their building project in no distant time. His Grace also appreciated the performance of the CMO choir during the Mass.

The theme for the parish celebration is: “Catholic Men As Spiritual Heads of the Domestic Church: Implications in the Family.”

The parish CMO used the celebration to raise fund for the roofing of their building project named: “St. Joseph’s Hall of Faith.”

In his brief remark at the occasion, the Parish CMO President, Arc. Anthony Emeka Ozoude said, “We have been able to complete the block work,” adding that, “the task before us now is to put a roof on the building.”

He therefore made a passionate appeal for generous donations from members and well wishers, assuring donors that every kobo donated will be prudently applied for the purpose.

Arc. Ozoude recalled that early this year, the parish CMO executive identified a three-prong programme of focus, namely: Membership revalidation, Debt recovery and Fund raising for the roofing.

He advised members not to sit on the fence anymore as there is so much to gain spiritually, morally and even intellectually from participating in the CMO activities both at the parish, stations and prayer groups levels.

“The committed members who attend our programmes regularly have discovered this and have remained resolute in their participation,” he said.

Activities marking this year’s celebration included Retreat, visit to ailing members in their homes, thanksgiving Mass blessing of the mini altars for the 5 prayer groups of CMO etc.

Arc. Ozoude thanked in a special way, Archbishop Obinna, the Cathedral Administrator and priests working in the Cathedral for their support. He also commended the various stations and prayer groups for their cooperation.

The CMO president acknowledged the good work and sacrifice of the Planning Committee, headed by Dr. Uche Ukozor and thanked them for a job well done.

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