Discrimination against Dalits and practice of caste is rampant within the Church, said a report released by the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF) on Monday. The report was prepared based on a public hearing by an eight-member committee on the alleged atrocities, including untouchability, committed against Dalit Christians in Sivaganga diocese.
The public hearing held on March 16 at R.S. Mangalam in Ramanathapuram district, was organised by the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front along with Dalit Christian People Federation (DCPF), Young Tamilnadu Movement (YTM), Caste Eradication Front (CEF), the Tamilnadu Devendirar Council, and Devendirar Welfare Society. The hearing had three sessions, each focussing on a specific topic such as denial of priesthood to Dalit Christians, discrimination against Dalit Christians in the church and practised by the diocesan administration.
The report was released by retired Madras High Court judge Justice D. Hariparanthaman and former Vice-Chancellor of Manonmaniam Sundaranar University V.Vasanthi Devi, who were part of the team that conducted the public hearing. The report alleged that the practice of caste can be found in the formation of parishes, denial of the share for the Dalit Christians in the administration of the parish, construction of separate chapels in the same village for Dalits and other caste Christians, discrimination in the facilities provided based on caste considerations, denial of employment opportunities and priesthood for Pallar Dalit Christians.
The report cited the case of Brother Michael Raja, who happens to be the only person among the Pallar Dalit Christians, who had completed his 13 long years of Theological Course and passed the final examination, but was sent out “on an erroneous decision” of the Rector of the seminary which was approved by the Bishop of Sivaganga Diocese.
Formation of parishes
The report said that the Dalit Christians are subjected to various types of caste discrimination and untouchability and the diocese administration acts in a discriminatory manner in forming the new parishes by confining more Dalit Christians in less parishes and making more parishes for caste Christians with less members.
The report also provided recommendations on how to remove practices of untouchability and caste discrimination.
“Practices of untouchability, discrimination and exclusion be forthwith abolished and special attention be given at all levels for the promotion and care of vocations to priesthood and religious life from the Dalit community. There should be participatory and inclusive administration and transparency in governance of church bodies and parishes and liturgical and para-liturgical concerns of the Dalits should be attended to. Special interest should be taken in the formation of the Clergy and Religious,” the report added.