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Indian Christians to celebrate Dalit Liberation Sunday on Nov 11

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Indian Christians of Dalit origin are still denied constitutional privileges and benefits because of their religion.

By Robin Gomes

Christians of various denominations in India are joining hands in jointly observing the Dalit Liberation Sunday (DLS) on Sunday. 

The Office for Scheduled Castes/Backward Classes (SC/BC) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), and the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), that comprises Protestant and Orthodox Churches, are marking the day on November 11.

The ecumenical observance has as its theme, “As for Me and My Household, We will serve the Lord”, taken from the Book of Joshua, which was also the theme of the 10th anniversary of the terrible anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal District of Odisha state, marked on August 25.

“The celebration of DLS is a clarion call to the whole Christian community in India to renew our faith and to awaken our consciousness to be the voice of the voiceless and to stand with the vulnerable Dalits in society,” Father Devasagayaraj M. Zackarias, the secretary of the Office of SC/BC told Matters India.

Who are Dalits?

“Dalit”, in Sanskrit, means ‘broken or  “trampled upon” and is used to refer to those outside India’s rigid four-tier Hindu caste system, who

were
once called “untouchables.”   Because Dalits fall outside the caste system they are considered social outcasts, and hence have been shunned, deprived and exploited socially, economically, politically or otherwise through centuries. 

The ‎Indian ‎Constitution reserves special privileges and benefits such as quota in government jobs and educational institutions for Dalit, 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.

“We are united in the same spirit of God to love and treat others with brotherly and sisterly concern,” Fr. Zackarias said.  “The Indian Constitution gives us the freedom to profess to practice and to propagate one’s religion. But in reality, our Dalit sisters and brothers are denied the Scheduled Castes rights just because they convert to Christianity thus denying their religious freedom,” he added.

Discrimination within the Church

Father Zackarias lamented that Christians of Dalit origin “not only experience discrimination within the Church but also by the State and the society.”   “God created all to be His loving children and to become Christ-like, but in

reality
we remain strangers to God by discriminating our own fellow members,” he said.

The CBCI continues to take

necessary
steps to eradicate the caste-based discrimination that exists in the Church. In this regard, a policy for empowering Dalits was released in December 2016 which declares that ‘Caste discrimination is a grave social sin.’

Dalit Christians still hoping

So far there is hardly any progress with regard to the case by the CBCI Office for SC/BC in the Supreme Court of India, challenging the validity of Presidential Order of 1950 that excludes Christians and Muslims of Scheduled Caste Origin from the Scheduled Caste list thus denying freedom of religion.

Explaining the theme of DLS 2018, Fr. Zakarias said that the episode of Prophet Elijah who was sent to the starving widow whom Jesus praises for her generosity, “gives us the hope that God is on the side of the poor and the marginalized.”

“Let us come together to take part in creating a peaceful and harmonious society to live, love and share together,” the priest urged, adding, “the DLS is an opportunity to give hope, to empower and to uplift the lives of Dalits.” 

“We hope to get justice from the Supreme Court based on the merit of the case,” Father Zackarias said.

DLS has been celebrated every year since 2007 by the CBCI in collaboration with the NCCI.   Fr. Zackarias said that since 2017, the annual day is being observed on the second Sunday of November.

Christians form 28 million or just 2.3

percent
of India’s 1.2 billion people but more than 60

percent
of them come from Dalit and tribal communities.    (Source: Matters India)

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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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