The Methodist Church has urged people to pray for Dalits struggling under the caste system next weekend.
The Church is hosting worship materials on its website to help ministers and preachers plan services around Dalit Liberation Sunday, which was initiated by the National Council of Churches in India.
The aim of the day is to raise awareness about the enduring existence of caste discrimination that affects around 300 million people worldwide.
The Rev David Haslam, a Dalit human rights’ campaigner, said: “Caste discrimination is present throughout Indian society and Dalit and tribal Christians are both troubled and angered by it."
He added: "Caste discriminates against the former ‘untouchables’ or Dalits – a word meaning ‘crushed’ or ‘downtrodden’ – on grounds of education, employment, housing, access to justice and operates even within churches and church institutions.”
In October 2010 the National Council of Churches in India held a national conference which designated casteism as sin and proposed a widespread education programme throughout Churches in India, including marking Dalit Liberation Sunday designated as the Sunday closest to International Human Rights Day on 10 December.
This year the theme of the Sunday (11 December) is ‘Our God with Struggling People’. Last month a nun who was a Dalit rights’ activist was murdered in India for defending land belonging to Tribal Dalits. Sister Valsa John of Dumka’s life was remembered during a candlelight vigil in memory on 18 November at New Delhi’s Sacred Heart Cathedral.
* The Dalit Liberation Sunday worship resource and information about Dalit Liberation Day can be found on the Methodist Church website here: http://methodist-news.org.uk/BVI-MDUJ-35NNYU-8N7CL-1/c.aspx