Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Wilberforce on caste

It's the two hundredth anniversary of William Wilberforce's parliamentary bill that lead, eventually, to the end of the slave trade. (Slavery, of course, continues. The Tablet had a fantastic piece last week marking the anniversary.) Interestingly, Joseph D'Souza, at the Dalit Freedom Network has a piece on Wilberforce's account of the caste system in India:
The West is commemorating the bicentennial of the abolition of the slave trade law that began the process of dismantling slavery in the modern world. William Wilberforce a parliamentarian, a friend of the then Prime Minister Pitt and a Christian human rights activist led the struggle against slavery in the British Parliament all his life. The new film ‘Amazing Grace’ is being released on March 23rd in London, which marks the 200th year of the abolition of the slave trade in the British empire.

Did Wilberforce have anything to say on caste discrimination and Dalits? Yes, he spoke on the caste system and untouchability in the British Parliament 200 years ago and described caste discrimination against Dalits as akin to slavery. Speaking on the caste system, he said, ‘The institution of caste is a system at war with truth and nature’.

If Wilberforce were alive today he would describe Dalits as modern slavery’s biggest challenge.

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