Breaking Free:

Indian Dalits Work to Cast Down the Caste System

May 22, 2013

Trapped for centuries at the bottom of an oppressive Hindu caste system, Dalits–those who have been broken, ground down by those above them in a deliberate way–are dreaming, hoping, writing, singing and working to rise above their burdensome social position of poverty and prejudice–and make justice a reality.

Dalits. They are the untouchables, treated worse than dogs as they sweep the streets and clean the latrines of India. They are the outcasts–or, more specifically, those “out of caste.” Their caste is lower than the lowest caste on the pyramid. They are beneath the bottom rung.

And there is no way out because there is a place for everyone in this system, and everyone in his place. People are born into the caste system.

The Hindu castes in India are Brahmin (priests and scholars), Kshatryia (kings, soldiers and warriors), Vaishya (merchants and professionals), and Sudras–the lowest before the outcasts (laborers and servants).

Lower than the bottom are India´s untouchables–the Dalits–who are hoping for freedom and gaining ground in awareness.

Using poetry, story and song, educated Dalits are beginning to express their situation in a greater measure. The word has gone forth of the injustice of their plight.

But it is Christ who sets the captives free. And ministries working among Dalits find hearts open to the gospel.

Native missionaries are washing the feet of the untouchables and spreading the good news among Dalit leaders. When one indigenous ministry held a conference on the Dalit movement, 200 Dalit leaders turned out.

“On that day 180 Dalit leaders expressed that they need the gospel of Jesus Christ,” ministry leader D.B. wrote in a letter to Christian Aid, which sends financial assistance to the mission. “Since then we have developed our relationship with them and as of today we have seen four house churches established.”

But last week a cyclone ripped through the area, devastating five villages, crushing 275 houses and killing three people. Many were left injured and hospitalized.

Dalits who gave their lives to Jesus at the conference also lost everything.

“When our team visited, most of them broke down in tears,” D.B. reported. “They have been wounded deeply. The power of the whirlwind was so strong even electric poles and a mobile tower could not withstand the storm. All the trees of the villages have been uprooted and the rooftops have been taken away.”

And while tornados uproot trees, the love of Jesus can uproot any injustice, break the yoke of caste systems and set a people free in their hearts.

“Through Christ, we can together eradicate untouchability and help bring transformation among the underprivileged untouchables of Odisha.”