Prayers Urged for India's Christian Dalits after High Court Delay

A Christian mission organization is urging believers around the world to pray for India's most lowly regarded people following the results of last week's hearing before India's Supreme Court.

According to Gospel for Asia, justices sitting at last week's hearing questioned the motive of Christians who support a change in the law that excludes India's Christian Dalits from the country's reservation system, which guarantees a quota of government jobs and college places for Dalits.

They alleged that support of the Dalit cause must mean that Christians in India admit they practice caste-based discrimination.

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GFA, however, reports that all Dalits – whether Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Muslim or Christian – continue to suffer "inhumane treatment" and are only allowed to take up the "most degrading" low-paid jobs, like garbage cleaning or handling sewage. Meanwhile, Dalit children go largely without schooling, depriving them of the opportunity to improve their standards of living.

Still, in the end, the court once again postponed a decision on the equal rights case, prolonging indefinitely the suffering of millions of Dalit Christians in India.

"The Bible teaches us that all people are created in the image of God and all are equal in His sight," said Gospel for Asia president and founder K.P. Yohannan in a statement released Tuesday. "That is why Christians are working to help Dalits escape from the oppressive caste system that has kept them in virtual slavery for over 3,000 years.

"But this delay does give us another opportunity to pray. Literally millions of Christian Dalits are seeking for an end to their grinding poverty, and I ask Christians around the world to intercede on their behalf."

The law, which Christian Dalits are seeking to amend, has been in place since 1950 but only covers Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh Dalits; Muslim Dalits are also excluded and Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh Dalits also face losing their benefits if they convert to Christianity.

Efforts to change the law have made little progress, however, because legal officials continue to justify the exclusion of Christian Dalits from the reservation quotas on the grounds that the caste system was only part of the Hindu religion and therefore only applied to members of that faith, explained Gospel for Asia.

There has been one positive development lately for India's Christian Dalits, however. The National Commission on Minority Religion and Linguistics submitted a report to the high court in May supporting the case for Christian Dalits to be included in the reservation system.

Still, GFA warned that the practice of caste discrimination was so engrained in the Indian social structure that it still permeates all aspects of daily life regardless of religion.

"While Indian society may still look upon Dalit people as outcastes, God loves each and every one of them," Yohannan argued. "We want them to know this truth and we welcome all people, including Dalits, to worship and follow Him."

Following the latest delay, the court has assigned a government committee to study the case for a change in the law before another hearing in eight weeks.

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