Abolish untouchability inside the Catholic Church in India
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In the Indian society the Dalits (Schedule caste) have been suffering discrimination and untouchability. To escape from the caste atrocities the Dalits became Christians. Today among the Indian Christians 70% are Dalits. They continue to continue to suffer worst forms of untouchability.
Michael Raj hailing from Devendra Caste (one of the Dalit castes) was studying to become a Priest for Sivagangai diocese in Tamil Nadu. He was dismissed from the seminary on 13.07.2011. This dismissal upset the Devendra community as there is no priest from them, though they form 25.23% of the Christians in this diocese. People allege that the absence of priest from this caste so far, is due to caste discrimination. The people began to demand from the diocese that Michael Raj should be ordained a Priest for this diocese.
This struggle between Devendras and the Diocesan administration led to the public agitations, hunger strikes, closing of the Churches etc. This problem has drawn the attention of civil society. A team under the leadership of A. Marx did an independent fact finding study on the problem of caste discrimination in Sivagangai diocese and published the report on 14.9.2015. A Pubic hearing was conducted on 16.3.2017 headed by Mr.D. Hariparanthaman, a retired Judge of Madras High Court. These reports say that there are 20 types discriminations practiced against the Dalit Christians. The salient ones are:
1.Dalit Christians are denied due participation in the administration of Parishes.
In some villages there are separate Churches for the Dalit Christians and Caste Christians.
2.In some villages separate areas are marked in the Church for Dalit Christians and caste Christians.
3.In some the Dalit Christians are not permitted to enter Church.
4.The Church festival Cars are not taken to Dalit Christian Streets.
5.Dalits are denied equal participation in the festival celebrations in the Parishes by not collecting subscription from them.
6.There are separate cemeteries and hearse van for the funeral services.
7.Dalit Christians are not provided the facilities such as Schools, Colleges, Hospitals and Community Halls etc.,
8.The Dalit Christians are not given proportionate job and educational opportunities in Church run institutions.
9.Dalit boys are not admitted to become Priests.
10.The church administration also acts in discriminatory manner and is not resolved to abolish these untouchable practices.
This petition urges Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro (The Indian Representative of Pope), Cardinal Oswald Gracias(The President of Catholic Bishops Conference of India), Bishop Antony Papusamy (The President of Tamil Nadu Bishops Conference) and Bishop Soosaimanickam (The Bishop of Sivagangai Diocese) to firmly resolve to abolish untouchability in the Indian Church.
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