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Racism and Caste: Catholic Social Thought and Theology in the Asian Context

Peter C. Phan

At first glance racism appears to have little to do with Asia, except in the context of its conquest by Western colonialism.1 Rarely are social prejudice and discrimination in contemporary Asia discussed in terms of race.2 In popular imagination, for better or for worse, racism has been associated principally with the United States and South Africa, where people of Caucasoid and Negroid races co-exist in close proximity, and where cultural and psychological superiority was claimed for the former, and legal, economic, social, and political oppression was practiced against the latter. By contrast, in many Asian countries, the majority of people belong to one race, e.g., the Mongoloid race in East Asia, or the Caucasoid (Aryan) race in South Asia. This racial homogeneity undercuts the kind of prejudice and discrimination based on biological and physical traits such as skin pigmentation, color and form of hair, shape of head, stature, and form of noseat least in large-scale and systematic form. Nor have there been in Asia racial theories, such as those espoused by Joseph Arthur Gobineau (1816-82) and Houston Stewart Chamberlain (1855-1927), that champion racial purity and

Peter C. Phan is the Ignacio Ellacuria Chair of Catholic Social Thought at Georgetown University.
1 By Asia are meant here principally South Asia (Afghanistan and the nations of the Indian subcontinent), East Asia (Chian, Mongolia, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan), and Southeast Asia (the nations of the southeastern peninsula and the East Indian archipelago). Excluded are Southwest Asia (Iran and the nations of Asia Minor, the Fertile Crescent, and the Arabian Peninsula) and Central and Northern Asia (several states comprising the former USSR). 2 This does not mean that the realities of race and caste cannot and should not brought together for mutual illumination. See, for example, G. S. Ghurye, Caste and Race in India (London: Kegan Paul, 1932); Oliver C. Cox, Caste, Class and Race (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1948); Oliver C. Cox, Race, Class and the World System (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1987); Gerald Berreman, Caste and Other Inequities. Essays on Inequality (Meerut: Folklore Institute, 1979); and Chris Smaje, Natural Hierarchies: The Historical Sociology of Race and Caste (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000).

JOURNAL OF CATHOLIC SOCIAL THOUGHT 3:1, 2006, 57-78.

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assert the inherent superiority (physically, intellectually, or culturally) of one race (usually the Caucasoid or White) over another (usually the Negroid or Black) and the right of the superior race, backed by military power, to subjugate the inferior ones as its slaves.3 This of course does not at all mean that there are no prejudice and discrimination in Asia nor that these forms of oppression are not sometimes racially tinged.4 But more often than not they, and their attendant social hierarchies, are based on elements other than race understood as a human group with gene frequencies different from those of the other groups in the human species. These elements include geography, language, nationality, ethnicity, kinship, gender, and religion. Of course, racism inevitably shapes and is in turn shaped by these elements, and no account of racism is adequate unless contextualized in these multiple realities. Nevertheless, it is true that in Asia it is these realities rather than race that generally serve as markers for social stratification. This essay examines a highly typical if not unique system of prejudice and discrimination in Asia, and more specifically in India, namely, caste. It first briefly explains the Indian caste system and its relationship to racism. Second, it explores the theological challenges that the caste system poses to the Christian church, especially its social thought. Third, it presents a contemporary movement in Indian theology known as Dalit theology which attempts to rethink the Christian faith in terms of the Dalits experience of marginalization and exclusion and to make the victims of the caste system the subject of their own liberation. CASTE AND RACE AS NATURAL HIERARCHIES Caste as Endogamous Kinship Groups The concept of caste is a highly contested one in anthropological and sociological sciences.5 From the Portuguese casta, literally, pure race or

3 Ironically, the idealization of the Aryan conquest of the Indus Valley presented in the Vedic hymns was incorporated into Nazi racist literature, in which German ancestry was claimed trace back to the Aryan forbears. 4 See reflections on racism in Asia in the second part of this essay. 5 From the numerous studies on caste, the following are to be noted: Arthur M. Hocart, Caste: A Comparative Study (London: Methuen, 1938/1950); Andr Bteille, Caste, Class and Power (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1965); John Maliekal,

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breed, it refers to the one of the main ways the Indian society is organized. The Indian term for caste is jati (literally, birth group), which refers to named, closed endogamous kinship groups, usually more or less localized or at least regionally based, with distinctive customs and ritual practices, strict dietary rules, and occupational preferences. Most castes are subdivided, and it is within the local subcaste that a man or woman finds most of his or her social contacts. Caste, which cuts across tribe, must be distinguished from it. Tribe is a social unit not linked to other units in a system. A tribe normally is a self-governing and socially and culturally closed group living in a particular geographical area. Tribes, however, have sometimes been integrated into the wider society as castes. Caste and Varna Another Indian term often associated with caste is varna, literally, color. Strictly speaking, varna does not indicate caste or kinds of social groupings but the four basic social functions traditionally defined as priest (brahman), king and warrior (ksatriya), merchant (vaisya), and servant, menial laborer, and peasant (sudra). A Rig Veda hymn con tains a myth which ascribes this fourfold division of humanity to the beginning of creation. Purusa, an original divine being, whose body filled the universe, was sacrificed to the gods and the dismembered

Caste in India Today (Bangalore: CSA Publications, 1980); Pauline M. Kolenda, Caste, Cult and Hierarchy (Delhi: Manohar, 1982); Dennis B. McGilvray, ed., Caste Ideology and Interaction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982); Louis Dumont, Homo Hierarchicus: The Caste System and Its Implications, trans. Mark Sainsbury, Louis Dumont, and Basia Gulati (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1980); Harold Gould, The Hindu Caste System, Vol. 1, The Sacralization of a Social Order (Delhi: Chanakya Publications, 1987); Harold Gould, Caste Adaptation in Modernizing Indian Society, Vol. 2, The Sacralization of a Social Order (Delhi: Chanakya Publications, 1988); Harold Gould, Caste Adaptation in Modernizing Indian Society, vol. 3, The Sacralization of a Social Order (Delhi: Chanakya Publications, 1988); Harold Gould, Politics and Caste (Delhi: Chanakya Publications, 1990); Sophie Baker, Caste (Calcutta: Rupa & Co., 1991); Virendra Prakash Singh, ed., Caste System and Social Change (New Delhi: Commonwealth Publishers, 1992); Declan Quigley, The Interpretation of Caste (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993); Robert Delige, Le systme des castes (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1993); Mary Searle-Chatterjee and Ursula Sharma, ed., Contextualising Caste: Post-Dumontian Approaches (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994); Ursula Sharma, Caste (Buckingham and Philadelphia: The Open University Press, 1999); Ghanshyam Shah, ed., Caste and Democratic Politics in India (Delhi: Permanent Black, 2000); and Chris Smaje, Natural Hierarchies: The Historical Sociology of Race and Caste (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000).

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parts of his body furnished materials for the creation of humanity: his mouth turned into the brahmans, his two arms into the warriors, his thighs into the merchants, and his feet into the servants.6 Outside or below these four varnas are the outcastes, the untouchables, the Depressed Classes, Scheduled Castes, the Harijans [Children of God, the term coined by Mahatma Gandhi], or the Dalits whose function is to perform those tasks considered as polluting such as leather-working and feces-removing.7 In a helpful evaluation of current sociological and anthropological discourse on caste, Declan Quigley notes that the assumption common in sociological studies that there is an automatic correspondence between varna and a particular jati is unwarranted because there is often a dispute about which varna a particular jati should be identified with.8 Quigley also points out that anthropologists have recently grown critical of Louis Dumonts influential work Homo Hierarchicus (1980), which offers a comprehensive history and theory of caste, and have tended to eschew constructing grand theories to account for caste and have concentrated instead on particularistic historical or ethnographical studies. The reason for the reluctance to construct overarching theories of caste in spite of abundant ethnographical and historical evidence, in Quigleys judgment, is that past theories of caste seem to have made arbitrary use of evidence; that caste is claimed to be unique to

See Rig Veda, X, 90: 12-12: When they divided the Purusa into many parts, how did they arrange him? What was his mouth? What were his two arms? What were his thighs and feet called? The brahmin was his mouth, his two arms were made the rajanya (warrior), his two thighs the vaisya (trader and agriculturist), from his feet the sudra (servile class was born). For an English translation of the Rig Veda, see <http:// www.hscc.net/rigveda/e-text.htm.>. The fourfold varna social hierarchy is further legitimized in the Bhagavad-Gita, chapter 18. 7 Different names have been given to those outside the four varnas. Most of them are abusive and connote impurity. They have been called, for example, by the upper castes: dasa (slave), avarna (without caste), panchama (the fifth caste), and achuta (untouchable). The term Dalit (with the Sanskrit root dal means to split, to crack, to open) was used to refer to these people by the Marathi social reformer Mahatma Jyotirao Phule (1826-90) to describe their oppressed and broken condition. It became popular under the leadership of another social reformer Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar (1891-1956). In the 1970s it was adopted by the Dalit Panther Movement of Maharastra. Today it is the preferred term that the untouchables use to describe themselves. For a detailed study of the Dalits, see James Massey, ed., Indigenous People: Dalits. Dalit Issues in Todays Theological Debate (Delhi: ISPCK, 1994), 3-176. 8 Declan Quigley, Is a Theory of Caste Still Possible? in Searle-Chatterjee and Sharma, ed., Contextualising Caste, 28.

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either India or Hinduism and therefore does not permit comparison with other social forms; and that the notion of caste appears to be a colonial invention which exists more in the minds and classificatory needs of imperialist foreigners than in social and historical reality. Four Inadequate Interpretations of Caste Quigley goes on to reject four common interpretations of caste as inadequate. The first, which holds that caste is a product of race, is to be dismissed since there is no obvious connection between caste and racial characteristics. The second, which proposes that there is an inherent connection between caste and occupation, is false since not all members of a given caste perform a particular occupation, and since many people who perform the same occupation belong to quite distinct classes. The third, which argues that caste is fundamentally about economic dominance and exploitation, is inadequate since ritual status does not always bring about economic prosperity. The fourth, which holds that caste produces a system which assigns everyone a fixed place and therefore removes competition, is false since there are constant attempts to change ones social standing through hypergamy, constructing false genealogies, changing names, moving to another locality, and conversion to Buddhism and Christianity.9 It has been mentioned above that Louis Dumonts theory of caste has been widely challenged. In his Homo Hierarchicus Dumont argues for a structural understanding of the hierarchically organized Hindu society on the basis of caste. Caste, according to Dumont, is founded on two fundamental concepts: the opposition between the pure (represented by the Brahman) and the impure (the untouchables) and the subordination of power to status. Hierarchy in Indian society is much more than inequality or superordination but the superiority of the pure to the impure which requires that the two be kept apart. Furthermore, in line with the superiority of the pure to the impure, the power of the king (the second function in the fourfold varnas) is subordinated to the status of the priest (the first Varna). Dumonts stratification of the Hindu society under the two concepts of ritual purity-impurity and ritual status vs. secular power has been questioned by anthropologists. With regard to the purity-impurity opposition, it has been pointed out that priesthood is widely regarded as

See Quigley, Is a Theory of Caste Still Possible?, 30-32.

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a defiling activity (especially the priesthood that performs funerary rituals), and that there are many different kinds of priests who are not Brahmans by caste. With regard to the superiority of ritual status over secular power, it is noted that this may be true at the level of ideology, but in day-to-day life, it is the king who rules over the priest. In general, Dumonts approach to caste is seen today as presenting an idealized Brahmanical ideology rather than a convincing contemporary sociological portrait of caste on the ground. It is rejected in favor of a more historical approach which emphasizes political relationships previously neglected because of the leveling effects of British colonialism on indigenous political processes.10 Basic Elements of Caste Despite these criticisms, it is agreed that several aspects of Dumonts approach to caste are helpful to understand the Indian society. First, caste represents a hierarchy of value in which, as opposed to Western individualism, the part, that is, the individual or the group, can only be understood in relation to the encompassing whole or the entire structure. Second, one caste cannot be understood in isolation, by itself, but only in relation to other castes. Third, in caste the relation between the king and the priest is central. Fourth, within the priesthood, purity and impurity play a fundamental role. Fifth, given the endogamous nature of caste, kinship and family must be given a primary role.11 As has been mentioned above, one of the reasons why there is a reluctance to construct overarching theories of caste is that caste or at least the caste system is claimed to be exclusive to India or to places

An alternative approach to caste is being suggested which considers it at the local or village level. At this level, much political and economic action is organized and controlled by the dominant caste of local landowners, even though these do not necessarily occupy the higher ranks of the varna scheme. From this perspective, caste is understood in terms of relationships between a central, dominant group (usually the one with preponderant ownership or control over land) and a set of groups arrayed around it in relationships of patronage and clientship. In this radial model of caste, there are different levels of power, from the little kings who possess autonomy and power at their local levels but who are subordinated to great kings who in turn are subjected to the great kings of kings. See Quigley, Is a Theory of Caste Still Possible?, 39-43. In Quigleys words: Caste results from an uneasy stalemate between the pull of localized lineage organization and the forces of political, ritual and economic centralization encapsulated in monarchical institutions. Caste systems are the product of a certain degree of centralisation which involves the organization of ritual and other services around the king and dominant lineage (ibid., 25). 11 See Quigley, Is a Theory of Caste Still Possible? 35.

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where Hinduism dominates. While such a thesis is debatable, it is useful for our present purposes to highlight certain features associated in different degrees to caste, without claiming that the caste system exists outside of Hinduism. Quigley has offered a useful list: recruitment to ones social position at birth; kinship organization in terms of lineages; differentiation between noble (or kingly) lineages and others; endogamy such that marriage tends to be within a restricted group of lineages; pervasiveness of ritual as a mechanism for structuring social relations; pollution concepts which place an ideological stress on the purity of women, or of lineages, or of kings, or of priests; monarchical institutions, whether material (palace complexes, monuments to kings and royal deities), social (courtly lineages and royal retainers), or ideological (royal rituals, chronicles); untouchability and scapegoatism.12 Needless to say, not all these elements play an equal role everywhere there is caste. Among these, kinship, endogamy, ritual purity, and social separation tend to predominate.13 However, one element of caste that has not received explicit consideration so far is its possible connection with racism. To this we now turn. The Caste System and Racism As has been noted above, Quigley argues for the rejection of the theory that considers caste as a product of race. Nevertheless he acknowledges that early outside commentators on India have pointed to a possible connection between caste and race insofar as the Aryan invasion might have introduced a distinction between those of the Aryan race and the

Quigley, Is a Theory of Caste Still Possible?, 35-36. Michael Amaladoss, in a synthesis of the essential elements of the caste system, enumerates three major axes: purity and pollution, social status, and kinship. See his A Call to Community: The Caste System and Christian Responsibility (Anand, Gujarat: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1994), 42-47. Amaladoss also argues that caste must be seen to affect all the six dimensions of human life: economics, politics, society, the individual person, culture, and religion (34-42).
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aborigines and produced the racist oppression of the former over the latter However, it must be admitted that caste has not traditionally been justified on the basis of the diversity of race; indeed, members of different castes do exhibit the same physical characteristics. While the complexities of the caste system cannot admittedly be explained by a marker as straightforward as race, it cannot be denied that racism, at least one that is based on skin pigmentation, has placed a role in the social stratification produced by caste. Interestingly, varna (color) has been associated with the caste system, and members of the Brahman castes are often light-skinned as opposed to those of the lower castes who are often dark-skinned. There is a telling parallel between the light-skinned Brahmans and the dark-skinned Untouchables in India on the one hand and the whites and the blacks in the United States on the other. Indeed, as one Dalit who belongs to the Ravidasi community, a North Indian caste of leather workers, has noted, his people are called by high caste Hindus and Sikh as Chamars, a term, he said, about as offensive as the word nigger.14 The connections between caste and racism are however more than skin-deep. An attempt has been made by some American sociologists to compare caste and racism when speaking of the social segregation in the Deep South. W. Lloyd Warner, for instance, contrasts class with caste.15 Class, for him, remains open so that people of one class can move up or down the social ladder. Caste, on the other hand, is fixed and prohibits movement and intermarriage between groups. In this respect, race is similar to caste. Thus, a black person may be professionally and economically equal to and better than a white person, yet she or he cannot escape blackness and become a member of the white race, and in terms of racial construction, cannot claim equality to, much less superiority over, the whites, however poor the latter may be. This is so because racist segregation, like social stratification based on caste, is not simply the product of individual prejudice but a systemic or social institution. This cross-cultural comparison between race and caste was however strongly objected to by the black sociologist Oliver Cromwell Cox who
14 A. Shukra, CasteA Personal Perspective, in Contextualising Caste, ed. SearleChatterjee and Sharma, 177. 15 See W. Lloyd Warner, American Caste and Class, American Sociological Review 42 (1936), 234-37; W. Lloyd Warner, Introduction in A. Davis, B. Gardner and M. Gardner, Deep South: A Sociological Study of Caste and Class (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1941); and W. Lloyd Warner, American Life: Dream and Reality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962).

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argued that caste is a Hindu-specific social system of India, a system that is nonpathological, by which Cox means stable, normal, and consensual, and therefore not requiring violent repression to keep it in existence. Racism, by contrast, is conflictive and pathological. To equate caste with race, according to Cox, is to play down the violent and oppressive nature of racism in the United States.16 In spite of Coxs misgivings, the anthropologist Gerald Berreman has written extensively on the similarities between caste in India and race in the United States.17 In both cases group membership is defined by birth. Furthermore, the processes by which the high castes demand deference from the low castes in India are similar to those by which whites demanded deference from blacks in the United States. In both cases superiority was claimed by the former groups, and interaction, especially sexual, with members of the latter groups was considered self-polluting. Also the ways in which the low castes and blacks resisted the ideology of ritual or racial supremacy were similar. Publicly they seem to subscribe to it, but privately they reject it, especially when talking among themselves.18 The thread that binds the two oppressive system together, in Berremans view, is neither ritual purity nor racial superiority but the assertion of power on the part of those who hold economic and political control. Another important theory on the connection between caste and race is offered by the sociologist Chris Smaje who proposes to view both race

See Oliver Cromwell Cox, Caste, Class and Race: A Study of Social Dynamics (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1948). 17 Beside his Caste and Other Inequities already cited above, see the following works of his: Behind Many Masks: Ethnography and Impression Management in a Himalayan Village (New York: Bobbs-Merrill 1962); Hindus of the Himalayas: Ethnography and Change (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1963); Caste in the Modern World (Morristown, N.J.: General Learning Press, 1973); Social Inequality: Comparative and Developmental Approach (New York: Academic Press, 1981). 18 Implicit in Berremans comparison is the question of whether caste is exclusive of Hindu India and therefore incommensurable with any other form of social stratification and oppression in other societies. Clearly, Berreman thinks otherwise. Another important methodological point for Berreman is that he insists that anthropologists listen to voices other than the official and dominant ones. Accordingly, he criticizes Dumont for listening too one-sidedly to the Brahmans and neglecting those of the subordinated groups. On the implications of Berremans methodology, see Ursula Sharma, Berreman Revisited: Caste and the Comparative Method, in Searley-Chatterjee and Sharma, ed., Contextualising Caste, 72-91.

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and caste as natural hierarchies.19 Against Oliver Cromwell Cox, Smaje suggests that race is not an epiphenomenon of a modern and specifically Western or Euro-American process of capitalist development and that caste is not an ancient, stable, and nonconflictive hierarchicalized social order founded on cultural-religious (Hindu) assumptions, the one studied in materialist sociology and the other in idealist anthropology. Rather, according to Smaje, both race and caste must be regarded as natural hierarchies, that is, they involve the idea that people can be divided into ordered collectivities on the basis of some transcendent or extra-human principle which seemingly establishes these groups as sui generis.20 As natural hierarchies, race and caste, though differing from each other in their ordering principles, can be fruitfully studied together, Smaje suggests, by considering their relation to three factors, namely, the separation or identity between persons and things; conceptions of cosmic order and its relation to worldly diversity, particularly with respect to political boundaries; and the character of the person and the substance that they embody.21 In sum, a strong case can be made for a cross-cultural comparison between caste and racism, even if one argues, and perhaps rightly, that the caste system is unique to Hindu India, which is based on a specifically Brahmanical ideology which accords pre-eminent value to ritual purity.22 Currently, the concept of caste has gone out of fashion as a category to describe race relations in the USA. Nevertheless, it still can be useful if it is understood, as Ursula Sharma suggests, as a process rather than a structure.23 By this is meant is that caste establishes not only difference but also inequality and injustice. Contemporary anthropology and sociology are more concerned with difference and have abandoned an interest in inequality. It is this latter aspect that connects caste with racism, and it is precisely this that catches the attention of the church, especially its social teaching.

See his Natural Hierarchies: The Historical Sociology of Race and Caste (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000). 20 Natural Hierarchies, 2. 21 Natural Hierarchies, 2. 22 The concept of caste has also been applied to situations outside of India such as North West Pakistan, the Middle East (e.g. South Yemen), Africa (e.g., Western Sudan, Ivory Coast, Mali, Upper Volta, Ghana, and South Africa) and Japan. See U. Sharma, Caste, 81-85. 23 See U. Sharma, Caste, 92-93.

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CASTE, RACE, AND THE CHURCH IN ASIA Church and Casteism The Catholic Church in India has had a complex if not conflicting relationship with the caste system. On the one hand, some missionaries such as Roberto de Nobili (1577-1656) accepted the caste system and sought converts to the Christian faith from the Brahman caste and not from the lower castes. De Nobili wore the dress of a religious teacher or sannyasi, ate pure vegetarian food prepared by a Brahman cook, learned Sanskrit and Hindu lore, and separated himself from the parangi, including the local low-caste Indian Christians.24 On the other hand, de Nobilis missionary method was severely criticized, already in his lifetime, by his fellow Jesuits (e.g., Gonalo Fernandes), and the caste system itself has been forthrightly condemned in recent times by the Christian churches.25 Lest unfair credit is claimed for the church, it must be pointed out that historically, Christianity is by no means the first religion to condemn the caste system. Indeed, the rejection of caste by other religious communities and leaders preceded that of the Christian church, even by centuries. The Buddha, himself born into the ksatriya caste, rejected ritual purity, which is the essential marker of caste, as the path to liberation and enlightenment. He made his Middle Way available to everyone and admitted all, even women and the outcastes, into his monastic community (sangha).26 Socially, this erasure of the caste division was widened under the Mauryan dynasty (321-185 B.C.), especially under emperor Asoka (269-232 B.C.), which sponsored Buddhism. The brahmanical religion with its promotion of the caste system was further undermined by what is known as Bhakti Hinduism. In contrast to the Vedic emphasis on sacrificial rituals and transcendental knowl-

24 On Roberto de Nobili, see Roberto de Nobili, Preaching Wisdom to the Wise, translated and introduced by Anand Amaladass and Francis Clooney (St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2000). 25 For a history of the complex attitudes of the Christian churches in India with regard to the caste system, see Poornam Damel, Dalit Christian Experiences: Some Reflection on Dalit Christians Struggle for Liberation and Its Implications for Doing a Dalit Theology, in X. Irudayaraj, ed., Emerging Dalit Theology, 18-54 and G. Ignacy, A Historical Overview of the Missionaries Approach to Caste, ibid., 55-64. 26 From the sociological standpoint, Siddhartha Gautamas rejection of ritual purity as the supreme value might be viewed as an attempt by the ksatriya caste to subvert the domination of the brahman caste with their rituals and their Vedic scriptures.

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edge, Bhakti Hinduism centers on personal devotion to the deities and promotes a variety of popular, non-priestly religious practices such as image worship, home shrines and temples, religious dramas, songs and dances, festivals, and pilgrimages. Sacred scriptures of Bhakti Hinduism were created such as the two great epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, and the Puranas. Bhakti Hinduism produced numerous saints and poets, both male and female, such as Kabir, Nanak, Ramanand, and Ravidas, who delivered strong messages about the equal access to God and the evils of the caste system. Such teachings were further disseminated when Bhakti Hinduism received the patronage of the Gupta dynasty (A.D. 320-540), often called the classical age of India. Other Indian religions that combat the caste system include Jainism, which insists on radical ascetism as the way to liberation from the bondage of karma, and Sikhism, which explicitly advocates the abolition of castes. In general, it must be said however the main efforts of these religious movements and leaders were to reform Hinduism from within and not to change the socio-political and economic structures that oppressed the Dalits. Among non-Christian leaders who have sought to destroy the caste system, the names of Shree Narayana Guru (1854-1928), Periyar E. V. Ramaswamy (1879-1973), Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), and Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambekkar (1891-1956) deserve special mention.27 It is well known that many of the Dalits, who make about 15 percent (about 200 million) of the Indian population, converted to Christianity and Buddhism to escape the discriminations of the caste system.28 Dalit Christians point out that they suffer a double discrimination on several fronts, both within the society and within the church: in the former, from the state and national government, the upper-caste Hindus, and the Dalit Hindus; in the latter, from the upper-caste lay Christians and the hierarchy. In the society, Dalit Christians are discriminated against because of their Christian faith with respect to education, employment, and housing, especially in rural areas. For example, the government of India gives special economic and political rights to the Dalits belonging to the

See M. Amaladoss, A Call to Community, 53-67. For example, the social reformer B. R. Ambedkar urged mass conversion to Buddhism. On the other hand, conversion to Christianity with its egalitarian spawned social reform movements in other faiths, such as Brahmo Samaj and Arya Samaj in Hinduism, Ahmadiya Movement in Islam, and Singh Sabha in Sikhism.
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Hindu, Sikh, and the Buddhist faiths, but not to Christians. Moreover, rape is frequently committed against Dalit girls and women.29 Within the Catholic Church, the majority of Indian Catholics are Dalit. Of the 25 million Indian Catholics about 20 million are Dalit.30 A complaint is often voiced about the minuscule number of Dalit bishops, in gross disproportion to the number of Dalit Catholics. Currently, of the 180 Indian bishops, less than eight are Dalit.31 Furthermore, blatant discriminatory practices have been denounced by the Dalit Christian Liberation Movement, such as separate seats in the church, separate times for communion, separate cemeteries, and lack of promotion of priestly and religious vocations among the Dalits.32 The Catholic Church in India is keenly aware of the injustices of the caste system. In November 1980, the participants of the Bishops Institute for Missionary Apostolate which met in Trivandrum, Kerala, India wrote to the bishops of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and India:
29

On the condition of Dalit women, see the essays: Kumud Pawde, The Position of Dalit Women in Indian Society, in James Massey, ed., Indigenous People: Dalits. Dalit Issues in Todays Theological Debate (Dehli: ISPCK, 1994), 143-58; Ruth Manorama, Dalit Women: Downtrodden among the Downtrodden, ibid., 159-67; Aruna Gnanadason, Dalit WomenThe Dalit of the Dalit, ibid., 168-76. 30 On the current situation of the Catholic Church in India, see its official Web site: <http://www.cbcisite.com.>. 31 Casteism reared its ugly head in April 2000 when one of the Dalit bishops, Marampudi Joji of Vijaywada, was made the first archbishop, as successor to Archbishop Samineni Arulappa in Hyderabad, capital of the State of Andhra Pradesh in Southern India, where 85 percent of the Catholics are Dalit. The retired archbishop openly criticized the Vaticans choice of a Dalit as his successor. For an account of this incident, see <http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/119/44.0.html.> 32 On Christian Dalits, see Ninan Koshy, Caste in the Kerala Churches (Bangalore: CSRS, 1968); Duncan B. Forrester, Caste and Christianity: Attitudes and Policies on Caste of Anglo-Saxon Protestant Missions in India (London: Curzon Press, 1980); John Thattumkal, Caste and the Catholic Church in India (Rome: Lateran University, 1983); John C. Webster, The Dalit Christians: A History, rev. ed. (Delhi: ISPCK, 1994); James Massey, Dalits in India: Religion as a Source of Bondage or Liberation with Special Reference to Christians (Dehli: ISPCK, 1995); James Massey, Roots of Dalit History, Christianity, Theology and Spirituality (Dehli: ISPCK, 1996); Godwin Shiri, The Plight of Christian Dalits: A South Indian Case Study (Lahore: Asian Trading Corporation, 1997); and Sathianathan Clarke, Dalits and Christianity: Subaltern Religion and Liberation Theology in India (Calcutta: Oxford University Press, 1998). Recently, some organizations have been formed among the Dalits to fight for equality, for example, the Dalit Christian Liberation Movement. See its Web site: <http://www.dalitchristians.com> and All India Christians Peoples Forum. Also and interfaith organization was constituted in 1992 known as the Dalit Solidarity Program, with a four point program, that is, to extend its full cooperation to the indigenous communities, to liberate the education system, and to internationalize the Dalit issue.

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In our discussion on justice and human rights the group expressed special concern regarding the problem of caste, especially in India. While caste discrimination has been officially condemned by our Governments and Church authorities, we are pained by the realization that a caste mentality is still prevailing at large in our Churches, the ways of feeling, of thinking and of acting of their members. This counter-sign deeply affects the credibility of our message. We are aware that such deep-rooted prejudices cannot be overcome easily, but we would strongly appeal to all members of our Churches to recognize the need of being converted to attitudes consonant with our Christian profession in the universal equality and brotherhood of all men in Jesus Christ. We would also appreciate on the part of the hierarchies of our Churches a clear disavowal of caste mentality in the Church and clear guidance for uprooting this evil from us.33

In response, the Indian bishops issued a forceful statement condemning the caste system at their meeting at Tiruchirapalli in 1982:
We state categorically that caste, with its consequent effects of discrimination and caste mentality has no place in Christianity. It is in fact a denial of Christianity because it is inhuman. It violates the God-given dignity and equality of the human person. God created man in his own image. Thus human dignity and respect are due to every person and any denial of this is a sin against God and man. It is an outright denial of the fatherhood of God which in practice renders meaningless the brotherhood of man.34

Again, in 1988, the Indian bishops declared at their general meeting in Kottayam: The abolition of caste among Christians and the integration of the Christians of the Schedule Caste origin in the mainstream as equals will be for us a top priority.35 In 1992, the Indian bishops noted that the demands of the Dalits could be classified into three categories and must be met: those regarding socio-economic benefits, jobs, education, and housing; empowerment of the Dalits within the church; and personal respect.36

The Bishops Institute for Missionary Apostolate was an office of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences (FABC), an organization founded in 1972. For a collection of the FABCs and its various Offices documents, see Gaudencio Rosales and C. G. Arvalo, ed., For All Peoples of Asia: Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences. Documents from 1970 to 1991 (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1991) and Franz-Josef Eilers, ed., For All the Peoples of Asia: Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences. Documents from 1992 to 1996 (Quezon City, Philippines: Claretian Publications, 1997); Franz-Josef Eilers, ed., For All the Peoples of Asia: Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences. Documents from 1997 to 2001 (Quezon City, Philippines: Claretian Publications, 2002).These volumes will be cited as For All Peoples of Asia, followed by their respective years of publication. The above quotation is from For All Peoples of Asia (1991), 100. 34 Quoted in M. Amaladoss, A Call to Community, xii. 35 Ibid., xii-xiii. 36 See ibid., xiii.

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In 1990, the Tamil Nadu Bishops Council launched a Ten-Point Program, a sort of a magna carta for the empowerment of Dalit Catholics. It aimed at removing discriminations against the Dalits in all areas of life. It called for the elimination of discrimination against the Dalits in places of worship and burial grounds, recruitment of priestly and religious vocations among the Dalits, participation of the Dalits in the decision-making process at both the diocesan and parish levels, admission of more Dalits to schools and vocational training centers, special assistance to Dalit students, preferential appointment of Dalits in church-sponsored institutions and organizations, special projects for the social development of Dalits, special scholarship funds for Dalits, establishment of a committee for Dalit affairs in every diocese, and vindication of human rights for the Dalits. The years1990-2000 was considered the Dalit decade. Unfortunately, by 2004, it was acknowledged that much of the Ten-Point Program had not been achieved, and in 2004, it was re-launched, this time with concrete and specific initiatives, designated persons and organizations to implement them, and periodic monitoring and evaluation of ongoing progress. Church and Racism As has been noted above, one reason why there is little talk about racism in Asia is that when race is taken in its strict sense to refer to certain phenotypical characteristics, social prejudice and discrimination, given racial homogeneity in Asia, have not often been discussed in racial terms. This does not mean that racism is absent in Asia, especially when race is seen to include, as it often does, cultural characteristics, such as language, customs, ethnicity, and religion. Racism then is akin to stereotyping, when one group arrogates certain positive characteristics such as intelligence, artistic creativity, moral virtues, or practical skills to themselves and attributes negative characteristics to others. In this sense, it is a mark of racism when China defined itself as the Middle Kingdom, implying that other nations are peripheral (read: barbarian), or when Japan adopted the policy of excluding foreigners to preserve the purity of the Japanese race and culture. In a helpful study of racism in Asia, John Clammer distinguishes three periods: indigenous precolonial racism, racist patterns of developing as a direct result of colonialism, and postcolonial contemporary racism.37 Precolonial indigenous racism is based on economic segrega-

See John Clammer, Racism, in Scott Sunquist, ed., Dictionary of Asian Christianity (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2000), 681-84.

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tion (e.g., the segregation of the Burakamin in Japan and slavery in premodern northern Thailand and China, especially in Yunnan and Szechuan), religious differentiation (e.g., anti-Muslim stereotyping in Hindu-dominated areas of India), and claims of racial superiority (e.g., Mogul Indians considered as superior to Hindu Indians, and the latter as superior to tribal peoples). In general, however, racism in precolonial Asia was relatively rare. On the contrary, there was an extensive practice of intermarriage, borrowing of cultural traits, and conversion to other faiths. Colonialism brought about a dramatic change to this relatively racism-free situation by introducing new racial hierarchies, promoting unprecedented migrations of peoples, creating new political and economic exploitative structures, and generating a new racial stereotype of the Asians themselves as Orientalexotic and erotic, lazy and untrustworthy. The majority of Asians were excluded from the colonial government, and a whole middleman class was created to mediate between the colonizers and the colonized, the former treating them with condescension and the latter with envy or contempt. An entire education system, with the emphasis on the mastery of the colonizers languages, to which only the native elites had access, was designed to maintain class distinctions among the subjugated peoples. In the post-colonial era, despite the euphoria of independence and nationalism, racism was not abolished but took on more subtle and no less noxious forms of stereotyping and oppression. Many parts of Asia, such as India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines, are currently plagued by ethnic and religious conflicts. So-called guest workers are blatantly exploited in countries where they migrate to find work: Indonesians in Malaysia, Thais in Singapore, Filipinos in Hong Kong, Vietnamese in Taiwan, Koreans in Japan. Many of these female foreign guest-workers are lured or forced into prostitution. Also tribal peoples and ethnic minorities are marginalized or discriminated against. The FABC has voiced strong and frequent protests against these new forms of racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious oppression. Again and again, in its plenary assemblies and through its different permanent offices, the FABC deplores and condemns various forms of injustice and discrimination and commits the Asian churches to the task of liberation.38 In its sixth Plenary Assembly (January 1995) with the theme of

The FABC describes a new way of being church in Asia which consists in a triple dialogue: with the peoples of Asia, especially their poor (liberation), their cultures

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Service to life, the FABC urged Asian Catholics to fight against the death-dealing forces that threaten the migrants, refugees, the displaced ethnic and indigenous peoples, . . . exploited workers, especially the laborers in their countries.39 In the seventh Plenary Assembly (January 2000) with the theme of Mission of Love and Service, the FABC highlighted discrimination against youth, women, the family, indigenous peoples, and sea-based and land-based migrants and refugees as its main pastoral concerns.40 Finally, the FABCs eighth Plenary Assembly (August 2004) with the theme The Asian Family towards a Culture of Integral Life, noted with alarm the various threats to the family, especially under the impact of globalization: Certainly caste-ism, patriarchy and gender inequality, poverty, child labor, land problems, ecological degradation and social conflicts are major deathdealing forces.41 The FABC proposed a pastoral approach to the family that goes beyond the usual concerns about contraception, abortion, euthanasia, natural family planning, pre-marriage and post-marriage catechesis, and family enrichment seminars,42 and focuses on the family as a ministry that forms and empowers Christians for spiritual growth, gender equality, and social transformation.43 It is clear from the social teaching of the church and that of the FABC in particular that both casteism and racism cannot be effectively combated unless they are tackled in their manifold dimensions: economics, politics, society, person, culture, and religion, to use Michael Amaldosss typology.44 Like the many-headed Hydra, casteism and racism cannot be cut off by an isolated stroke. Rather, all their deep-rooted and well-entrenched ramifications in every aspect of human life must be addressed at the same time, and appropriate strategies must be devised for a multi-front and long-haul battle. The weapons employed must be both theoretical and practical. One of the reasons why the caste system

(inculturation), and their religions (interreligious dialogue). See the following three works by Peter C. Phan, Christianity with An Asian Face (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2003); In Our Own Tongues (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2003); and Being Religious Interreligiously (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004). 39 For All Peoples of Asia (1997), 4. 40 See For All Peoples of Asia (2002), 9-11. 41 The 8th FABC Plenary Assembly Final Document. FABC Papers, no. 111 (16, Caine Road, Hong Kong: FABC, 2004), 25. 42 Ibid., 60. 43 Casteism and racism have also been the concerns of the Special Assembly for the Synod of Bishops for Asia (Rome, April 19-May 14, 1998). See Peter C. Phan, ed., The Asian Synod: Texts and Commentaries (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2002). 44 M. Amaladoss, A Call to Community, 34-42.

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(to a lesser extent, racism) has proved so resistant to social reform is its religious underpinning which, as we have seen above, is provided by the priestly caste. An alternative religious worldview must therefore be constructed to show why the caste system is contrary to Gods will and design for humanity. ABOLUTION OF CASTEISM: DALIT THEOLOGY Concomitant with Dalit liberation movements, a Dalit theology has recently been formulated by Indian Christians of various denominations.45 Unlike past attempts at inculturating the Christian faith which make an almost exclusive use of Hindu philosophical and theological categories, Dalit theology privileges the Dalits experiences of low selfesteem and confused self-identity, the fruits of centuries-old contempt and oppression. As a counter-culture theology,46 it is a call to liberate Indian theology from what James Massey terms the Sanskritic captivity47 and, in the footsteps of other liberation theologies, it commits itself to being the voice of the untouchables and seeks to overturn their subjugation.48 This is not the place to present a comprehensive survey of Dalit theology, which is still evolving. Rather, my aim is to highlight four areas which have a direct relevance for the liberation of the Dalits.49 The Servant-God Arvind P. Nirmal, one of the foremost Dalit theologians and Head of the Department of Dalit Theology at the Lutheran Theological College
The following works are to be noted: M. E. Prabhakar, ed., Towards a Dalit Theology (Delhi: ISPCK, 1988); Arvind P. Nirmal, ed., Towards a Common Dalit Ideology (Madras: Nandan Offset, 1990); Xavier Irudayaraj, ed., Emerging Dalit Theology (Madras: Jesuit Theological Secretariate, 1990); Felix Wilfred, ed., Leave the Temple: Indian Paths to Human Liberation (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1992); James Massey, ed., Indigenous People: Dalits. Dalit Issues in Todays Theological Debate (Dehli: ISPCK, 1994); James Massey, Towards Dalit Hermeneutics: Rereading the Text, the History and the Literature (Dehli: ISPCK, 1994); Michael Amaladoss, Life in Freedom: Liberation Theologies from Asia (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1997); Hans Ucko, The People and the People of God: Minjung and Dalit Theology in Interaction with JewishChristian Dialogue (Mnster: LIT Verlag, 2002). From the religious backgrounds of the contributors, Dalit theology is very much an ecumenical and even interfaith effort. 46 See A. M. Abraham Ayrookuzzhiel, Dalit Theology: A Movement of CounterCulture, in J. Massey, ed., Indigenous Theology, 250-76. 47 See J. Massey, Ingredients for a Dalit Theology, in J. Massey, ed., Indigenous Theology, 338-43. 48 See William Madtha, Dalit Theology: Voice of the Oppressed, in J. Massey, Indigenous Theology, 277-94. 49 For a brief survey of the history of Dalit theology, see M. E. Prabhakar, The Search for a Dalit Theology, in J. Massey, ed., Indigenous Theology, 201-13.
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and Research Institute in Madras, argues that the historical Dalit consciousness is the primary datum of Christian Dalit theology.50 This historical consciousness, he goes on to say, with heart-breaking stories from his family in Maharashtra, is colored by acts of outrageous oppression and humiliation of the Dalits by the upper castes.51 It is in the light of this historical consciousness that Nirmal re-reads Deuteronomy 26: 5-12 and comes to understand who God is. Nirmal makes five points regarding the Deuteronomy passage. First, just as this passage is a creedal confession, so Dalit theology must also be a confessional theology, that is, it has to do with the question of the roots, identity and consciousness. Second, as Abraham the wandering Aramean was part of a tribe, so Dalit identity, and hence, Dalit theology, must also be inextricably bound with the community: The vision of a Dalit theology, therefore, ought to be a unitive vision or rather a communitive vision. Third, just as the Hebrew confession recalls the Israelites afflictions and harsh bondage in Egypt and their liberation, so Dalit theology must also tell the story of oppression of the Dalits and work for their liberation. Fifth, just as thanks to the Exodus, the Israelites became the people of God, so thanks to the Christian faith, the Dalits do not just form a social group but are Christian: they are not merely Dalits but Christian Dalits. In Jesus they have experienced liberation.52 What kind of God would be imaged in Dalit theology? Nirmal argues that of course such a God cannot be any God that does harm to the Dalits. For example, the story goes that the God Rama, whom millions of Hindus worship, kills Shambuka, a Dalit, because he wants to un-

A. Nirmal, Towards a Christian Dalit Theology, in J. Massey, ed., Indigenous Theology, 220. 51 The following passage, which gives us a glimpse of the sufferings and humiliations of the Dalits, deserves full citation: When my Dalit ancestor walked the dusty roads of his village, the Sa Varnas tied a tree branch around his waist so that he would not leave any unclean footprints. The Sa Varnas also tied an earthen pot around my Dalit ancestors neck to serve as a spittle. If ever my Dalit ancestor tried to learn Sanskrit or some other sophisticated language, the oppressors gagged him permanently by pouring molten lead down his throat. My Dalit mother and sisters were forbidden to wear any blouses and the Sa Varnas feasted their eyes on their bare bottoms. The Sa Varnas denied my Dalit ancestor any access to public wells and reservoirs. They denied him entry into their temples and places of worship. That, my friends, was my ancestor many in Maharashtra. My Dalit consciousness, therefore, has an unparalleled depth of pathos and misery and it is this historical consciousness, this Dalit identity that should inform my attempt at a Christian Dalit theology (ibid., 221-22). 52 See ibid., 220-21.

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dertake a life of prayer and ascetism. The Dalits cannot accept such a Hindu God. By contrast, the God whom Jesus reveals is a servant God, a God who serves. Nirmal reminds his readers that within the varnas, members of the fourth caste (the sudra ) perform the function of ser vants, and below them are the Dalits who are supposed to perform the tasks considered polluting such as house-cleaning, street-sweeping, removing feces from latrines. To say then that the Christian God is a servant is to say that God is a Dalit: To speak of a servant-God, therefore, is to recognize and identify him as a truly Dalit Deity.53 Recalling Isaiahs texts on the Suffering Servant, Nirmal says that their language of pathos mirrors that of the God of the Dalits and the Dalits themselves. But the Servant-God does not condone the continuation of the status quo. On the contrary, as in the Exodus, the Servant-God is a God who liberates the Dalits from their condition of servitude. A Christian Dalit theology is full of pathos, says Nirmal, but not a passive theology: Our pathos should give birth to our protesta very loud protest. Our protest should be so loud that the walls of Brahmanism should come tumbling down.54 Christ the Dalit Nirmal, as mentioned above, insists that he and his fellow believers are not just Dalits but Christian Dalits. This means that they confess Jesus as the Christ. But what does the Christ stand for? Nirmal suggests that a Dalit Christology is characterized by two affirmations: first, that Jesus Christ . . . was himself a Dalitdespite his being a Jew; and second, that both his humanity and divinity are to be understood in terms of his Dalitness.55 As far as Jesus Dalitness is concerned, Nirmal suggests that it is revealed in five features of Jesus life and ministry. First, like the Dalits, Jesus counted among his ancestors people of ill repute: Tamar, who tricked her father-in-law to have sexual intercourse with her; Rahab, the prostitute who helped the Israelite spies; and Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah who committed adultery with David. Second, Jesus used to refer to himself as the Son of Man, who, like the Dalits, encountered rejection, mockery, contempt, suffering, and finally death at the hands

53 54 55

Ibid., 224. Ibid., 222.. Ibid., 225.

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of the powerful priests and political rulers. Third, during his ministry, Jesus understood that he was sent specifically to the Dalits of his times (Luke 4: 16-29) and shared table fellowship with them, to the scandal and anger of those who considered themselves ritually pure. Fourth, in cleansing the Temple, Jesus, according to Robert Lightfoots interpretation, opened up access to the Temple for the Gentiles. Like them, the Dalits today have to agitate for the right to enter and worship in the Hindu temples. Finally, in his death on the cross, like the Dalits, Jesus was the broken, crushed, the split, the torn, the driven asunder man the Dalit in the fullest possible meaning of that term.56 As to how Dalitness is the key to understand the mystery of Jesus humanity and divinity, Nirmal has not offered much explanation, except to say that Jesus cry on the cross, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? seems to indicate a sense of God-forsakeness. What Nirmal seems to suggest, obliquely, is that the relationship between Jesus divinity and humanity should be understood in dialectical rather than ontological terms: That feeling of being God-forsaken is at the heart of our Dalit experiences and Dalit consciousness in India. It is the Dalitness of the divinity and humanity that the Cross of Jesus symbolizes.57 The Holy Spirit as the Life-Giving Comforter As compared with Dalit Christology, Dalit pneumatology still remains, by Nirmals own admission, in its rudimentary stage. The image of the Spirit that Nirmal privileges is derived from Ezechiel 37, where the prophet speaks of the Spirit as reviving the dry bones, unifying them, and making an army out of them. Thus, for the Dalits, the Spirit is the life-giver, unifier, and empowerer for the liberation struggle of the Indian Dalits.58 Another image highlighted is the Holy Spirit as Comforter or Paraclete who descends upon the Dalits even before their baptism, as he did upon Cornelius and his household: The Holy Spirit did not wait for the baptism of the Gentilesthe Dalitsto descend upon them. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit on the side of the Dalits.59 Church: Community of Struggle and Solidarity Because God is a Servant-God, because Christ is the Dalit par excellence, and because the Holy Spirit is the life-giving, uniting, and em-

56 57 58 59

Ibid., Ibid., Ibid., Ibid.,

226-29 229. 229. 230.

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powering Comforter, the Dalit Christian community that is brought about the Triune God must be a church of struggle and solidarity. As Michael Amaladoss observes, the emphasis of Dalit ecclesiology is not on the church itself but on the reign of God. Consequently, the stress is not only on Jesus option for the poor and the outcasts, but also on his call to everyone to a new fellowship in which all are equal and there is no discrimination.60 Such a community must first of all be a community that struggles against any form of injustice and oppression. This aspect is well expressed by B. R. Ambedkars strategy of Educate, Agitate, Organize61 and has been put into practice by various political groups.62 Going hand in hand with the struggle with and for the Dalits is solidarity with them as victims of oppression and injustice. This solidarity takes the form of voluntary poverty to remove imposed poverty. In addition to sociopolitical and economic activities, the church also worships and celebrates the sacraments. Here, the church must continually strive to be an all-inclusive community and a credible sign of the Servant-God, of Jesus the Dalit, and of the Holy Spirit the life-giving Comforter. Baptism makes all members of the church radically equal and destroys the caste system to its core. With reference to the Eucharist, the bishops of India declared in Tiruchirappalli in 1982: Catholics in particular are called to reflect on whether they can meaningfully participate in the Eucharist without repudiating and seriously striving to root out caste prejudices and similar traditions and sentiments both within the Church and outside.63 The sacrament of penance provides opportunities for the upper-class Christians to repent of their sins committed against the Dalits, to ask for their forgiveness, and to build a new community based on mutual reconciliation. What emerges clearly from both the history and the discussion of caste is that the caste system is not a single thing but rather a reality inextricably intertwined with other realities of human existence. To understand it and to remove it, it is necessary to see its manifold connections with race, class, gender, ethnicity, culture, and religion. Only a multi-front praxis and a theology born of that praxis can be an equal match against the caste system.

M. Amaladoss, Life in Freedom, 30. See also his A Call to Community, 100-15. Quoted in M. Amaladoss, A Call to Community, 125. 62 On these movements, see Lata Murugkar, Dalit Panthers: A Militant Movement in Maharastra, in J. Massey, Indigenous Religion, 96-110. 63 M. Amaladoss, A Call to Community, 131.
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