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Time for Pope and media to convert to reality

Time for Pope and media to convert to reality

Author: Anil Nayyar
Publication: News Today
Date: November 20, 2003
URL: http://newstodaynet.com/guest/2011gu1.htm

Pope John Paul's recent fulminations against 'discriminations' in Hindu Indian society should not come as a major surprise to anyone who knows the ways of the man who sits in the distant Vatican.

It is almost a predictable charade from him. It is equally predictable that the 'secular' press in our land should dutifully carry the same in all earnestness.

Ever since he targetted India as a fertile land for 'rich harvest', the Pope and his phalanx have found something to criticise in India. Sometimes it is riots. Sometimes it is about the laws against conversions. And now it is about casteism.

As always, the Pope has been wrong about India.

The learned Pope has spoken as if casteism is a phenomenon of the Hindus. But as anyone who has interacted with Christians, here in India or elsewhere, will bear out that casteism, which is another form of discrimination, is alive and kicking (literally) among them (Christians).

But the Pope does not talk about that.

Perhaps, he is not aware of that, or not ready to be enlightened. But those wanting remove the wool from their eyes have to listen to some of the 'Dalit Christians' here and elsewhere. Just sample this letter in a 'Dalit Christian website: 'Dear Christian Followers, I am a Dalit, and I Studied in Christian Schools. I too become a Christian as my teachers forced me to believe Christianity. They explained that Jesus is the only God. They told me to come for the new life as God is coming to the world on year 2000. As I was a Christian I know their attitudes well. They want to convert more Christians. To that they chosen all the public places. Some times they criticize rival religion in the streets, which made a big controversy in India. I believe that they disturbed others in public places. They forced others to follow them. They lied in the streets that they become very rich and popular because of Jesus. These events made me to embrace the Hinduism .... Christianity is a Business in India. They converted more and more. Why? What is the need of Conversion? Why they should interfere in some other life?'

That was one Vivek Kannan explaining about his predicaments after conversions.

But before the Pope or anybody else start saying that casteism is a legacy of Hindus in India, read this from an American in the same website: 'My wife Mariani and I began a Center for Interfaith Encounter (CIE) in St. Cloud, MN, in January 2000. We care deeply about all the oppressed of the earth whatever their religion, ethnic group, color or nationality. Our website: www.geocities.com/mmnazareth In the part of the US where we live, as Christians of color we have sometimes felt that we are dalits ourselves. We have sensed that white Christians in this corner of Central Minnesota, where non-Catholic Christians are approx. 35%, and where non-Christians form a little over 5% of the total population, Christians of color enjoy an identity that is, in some sense, not dissimilar to that of Dalit Christians.

'We became US citizens in late 1999, but for some white (North) Americans it is the color of our skins that defines who we are, namely, aliens who are in some sense religiously inferior to them. Who ever said that caste is the curse of Indian society alone? Casteism is a species of racism. Or maybe racism is a form of casteism experienced in First World societies. Indeed, to judge from our frequent experience even in religious spheres in the US of A, racism is another name for casteism of the civilized. 'Touche! If still the Pope and those from India to whom the pontiff had spoken are not convinced, and believe that Christianity is a panacea to Dalits, there are empirical studies by sociologists prove that the underprivileged status of the Dalit Christians remains the same. (The Plight of Christian Dalits: A South Indian Case Study (Bangalore: Asian Trading Corporation, 1997); JOSE KANANAIKIL, Scheduled Caste Converts and Social Disabilities: A Survey of Tamil Nadu (New Delhi: Indian Social Institute, 1990).

The research by Kananaikil shows that for many, even where there is a religious community which the new convert has joined, this does not automatically mean that the new convert is accepted into the new community as a full-fledged member.

In Kananaikil's opinion, 'social prejudices die hard even in the holy places of churches and pagodas where a Dalit convert is called a neo-Christian or neo-Buddhist'.

Godwin Shiri, in his study points out that the Dalit women are the dalit among the Dalits. 'They are being discriminated against 'within' and 'without' society. A deeply rooted male-domination ideology, less acknowledged and practised often, is making the lives of Christian Dalit women more miserable than that of their men, within the community as well as in the society at large.'

These words are not being made by 'others'. These are from voices which are 'secular' and 'non-Hindu'.

The Pope may not know this. For, he may be thinking about the rich harvest that he had so eloquently talked about. But what of our secular media? Should they also remain steadfastly blinkered? Time is ripe for them to convert to reality, that is.
 


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