CSI Synod Centre, Chennai- 24th April 2017: Magsaysay Award winner Mr. Bezwada Wilson, who works for the manual scavenging community to which he also belongs to, challenged the Indian Church to wake up to fight against casteism and manual scavenging, which is a by- product of it, during his inaugural speech at the National Consultation on “Towards Abolition of Manual Scavenging: Ecumenical Accompaniment and Advocacy”. He intensely argued that “Combating casteism is a great challenge for the church. I don’t understand why the church is still in its full strength in combating casteism. If you are a person believing in Christ, you cannot have caste in your mind. Caste is there in the mind; caste is there in the heart, but you have to wipe it out. Caste is a dead body and you are living with the dead body. If you don’t bury this dead body, you won’t be having the resurrection. Manual scavenging is rooted in the mind because it is rooted in caste. So, fighting manual scavenging is primarily about fighting casteism.”
Rev. Dr. Daniel Rathnakara Sadananda, the General Secretary of the Church of South India (CSI) Synod, welcomed the delegates of the conference, which is jointly organised by the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), NCCI, and CSI. In his welcome speech, he exhorted that “It is time for the church to wake up to the realities. Manual scavenging is a curse on human society. Manual scavengers are at a double disadvantage. They come from a very ‘low caste’ background and have to face all the discriminations in the society. On the other hand, they are disadvantaged because they are compelled to do manual scavenging. They are the sinned against. The challenge of rehabilitation and liberation is urgent. It requires a very comprehensive approach. This should move way beyond the limits of consultations. And most importantly, we should secure the future of the next generation of the manual scavengers.”
Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad, the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), explained about the campaign the NCCI leads from the beginning of this decade challenging the casteist Indian society and expounding the church by the slogan of the campaign, “No one can serve Christ and caste”. Caste should be rooted out from the life of the church. Manual scavenging is one of the most heinous expressions of the institutionalisation of casteism. And therefore, this should be taken as a serious concern.
Dr. Reynaldo Racaza Ty (Executive Secretary, Human Rights-CCA) brought greetings from CCA and states that there should be a clear idea what we need from the grass-roots and what the Church could do to tackle and abolish the manual scavenging in India.
Dr. Esther Kathiroli (Secretary, TNCC) affirms that the Tamilnadu Christian Council (TNCC) is ready to join hand in abolishing the manual scavenging. She avows that manual scavenging will be inevitably abolished as soon as the caste system is abolished.
Earlier, the delegates participated in the worship service specially prepared for the conference. Rev. Asir Ebenezer, the Director of CSI SEVA explained the agenda of the conference. Rev. Christopher Rajkumar, the Executive Secretary in NCCI, gave the vote of thanks in the inaugural session.
The conference will continue until 26th of April 2017.