Dalit Christians handed a major setback in India

By March 16, 2007

India (MNN) — What many had hoped would be a breakthrough
for Dalit Christians in India, has turned into huge defeat.

The National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled
Tribes (NCSC/ST) rejected the demand for affirmative-action benefits for Dalit
Christians and Muslims. The committee denied the need for the benefits on the
grounds that "untouchability," the main criteria for the benefits,
only affected Hindu Dalits, who are considered untouchables.

Speaking from India, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia KP Yohannan
says, "This is a huge, huge roadblock for masses of communities to embrace
the Christian faith."

In 2005, the Supreme Court requested that the National Commission for Religious
and Linguistic Minorities (NCRLM) conduct an investigation and complete a
report concerning the need for affirmative-action benefits for Dalit Christians
and Muslims. Following the investigation, the commission will submit a report
to the Supreme Court. Yet after two years of "investigation," no
report has been filed.

However, Yohannan doesn't believe this is over. "There is still a lot of
talk, a lot of  articles, people are
talking about it. These people deserve to have the privileges guaranteed by the
constitution. So, I think this will be picked up again."

While many are upset with this committee decision, Yohannan
says it's not going to stop Dalits from turning to Christ. He says it makes
their conversion even more incredible. "In many places," Yohannan
says, "these people are coming to Christ knowing that they are going to be
losing their privileges. They may not be able to send their kids for higher
education, which they were able to do almost free.  But, I'm telling you knowing Christ and
really encouraging new life changes everything."

The demand for Scheduled Caste status for Christians is still pending before
the Supreme Court of India. Many commissions and important government
departments have strongly recommended Scheduled Caste status for Dalit
Christians based on the fact that they experience the same socio-economic
disabilities as other Dalits.

Recently a Dalit has been appointed to sit the Supreme
Court. Yohannan is hopeful this will make a difference. "Him being there
definitely is a positive thing in the days to come."

Until that happens, however, Yohannan says more Dalits are
likely to turn to Christ, but quietly. "There are huge numbers of people
who actually follow Christ and worship Him, although they have not declared it
publicly. And, I think the Kingdom's work and impact is definitely taking

With headquarters in Carrollton, Texas, Gospel for Asia is one of the
fastest-growing church-planting ministries in South Asia. More than 16,000
native missionaries are now serving and have planted more than 29,000 churches
in 10 nations across Asia.

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