The Forgotten People of India - Part 1: God Touches the 'Untouchables'

In India, each Hindu family worships their own God, be it a monkey, elephant or one of hundreds of other deities; Swamy's family worshiped a shrine of a cow. After being forced from his village Swamy continually questioned his God, struggling to understand why he had been created a Dalit and why he had to be sub-human. Swamy never got an answer and continually struggled to understand. It was not until seven years later, when he was 18, that one day he met his older brother, Chella, and noticed he had a beaming smile.

Chella declared joyfully that he had become a Christian. He told Swamy that as he was walking along the road he heard a group of young people singing songs about Jesus. The group, Chella described, was part of an organization called Operation Mobilization (OM), and they had invited him to sing. However, he was initially apprehensive and declined their offer. But after realizing the group did not mean any harm he inquired who they were, and they began to tell the message of Jesus. What truly caught Chella's attention though was their proclamation that everyone, including Chella himself, was born in God's image. It was a message of hope for the hopeless.

Chella opened a bible before Swamy and showed him that he was created in the image of God. After listening to Genesis 1:27, Swamy could not believe his ears.

"I was stunned to hear that message, as it was too wonderful for me. I had never heard anything like that in my entire life; I thought I was a sub-human Dalit, underprivileged, no good human being," Swamey said.

That night Swamy, along with his mother, dedicated their lives to Christ. Soon after, Swamy began to work for OM and they trained him in Christian discipleship, sparking a new era in Swamy's life, where he would dedicate himself to bringing Christ's message to other oppressed Dalits.

Dr. Joseph D'souza is another Christian who has dedicated his life to improving the situation of the Dalits. D'souza founded the Dalit Freedom Network and in doing so created a support and advocacy network whose goal it is to empower the Dalits through education while exposing them to the power and love of the Holy Spirit.

Across India there continue to be daily reports of Dalit men being severely beaten and of children being abducted and forced to work for little or no pay. Dalit women are also offered no reprieve or protection from local authorities, who, when sought after for help, routinely question the motives of the Dalit women and seldom file an official report.

"We are in the middle of spiritual warfare…this time around…the Dalits would see that Jesus Christ cared for them...I can say that it is because of God this has happened, but it would not be an understatement to say that Jesus Christ is fully planted in the whole movement of the Dalits," D'souza said during a conference in Hyderabad.

The Dalit movement has been gaining momentum over the past decade and it is intent on not being limited solely to India. It has branched out to all corners of the globe bringing the story of Dalit oppression to sympathetic ears, none more so than members of Friends Church in Yorba Linda, Calif., who have pledged to build 200 DECs throughout India.

What now poses the greatest challenge, given the circumstances, is the depth in which discrimination and feelings of worthlessness have been engrained into the minds of the Dalits, and the deeply held contempt for the Dalit people by those who continue to observe the caste system.

The work is just beginning and there is still a long road difficult road to go, but D'Souza is confident that with continued hard work, and dedication to Jesus Christ, the Dalits will eventually be able to rise up above the caste system that has oppressed them for thousands of years.

Dalits in India