Monday, April 14, 2008

Another shuddhi ceremony

Periodically one hears reports of some Hindu organization or the other performing a shuddhi ("purification") ceremony and "re-converting" various Christians, bringing them back into the Hindu fold. More often than not, these Christians are tribals or Dalits. Asia News has the details on a recent ceremony where a thousand Dalit Christians reconvert to Hinduism - Asia News.

Events like these continue to highlight the problems of caste-based discrimination in the Church. In fact, the way caste was adopted by Christians, quite unapologetically, and caste-discrimination practiced, is one of the greatest tragedies, I feel, of Indian Christianity. Christianity may have arrived in India in apostolic times, but, in this case, it was Indian culture that "evangelized" the Christian community. As the article highlights, caste -discrimination is a continuing reality in the Indian Church:
Caste discrimination prevails among Christians in Tamil Nadu. Last 9 March in the parish of Eraiyur, Pondicherry-Cuddalore archdiocese, clashes between upper caste Christians and lower Dalit Christians led to police intervention, resulting in the death of two people. The situation is such that the two groups have separate cemeteries and, in church, separate pews.

Pope John Paul II urged Tamil Nadu bishops during their 'ad limina' visit of 17 November 2003 to overcome this division.

On that occasion the Holy Father said: "Any semblance of a caste-based prejudice in relations between Christians is a countersign to authentic human solidarity, a threat to genuine spirituality and a serious hindrance to the Church's mission of evangelisation. Therefore, customs or traditions that perpetuate or reinforce caste division should be sensitively reformed so that they may become an expression of the solidarity of the whole Christian community. As the Apostle Paul teaches us, 'if one member suffers, all suffer together' (1 Cor, 12:26). It is the Church's obligation to work unceasingly to change hearts, helping all people to see every human being as a child of God, a brother or sister of Christ, and therefore a member of our own family."
(Emphasis added)

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