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ANS – An absolutely crucial Supreme Court hearing will take place in India on Tuesday 18 October. Please pray through this week leading up to the hearing, and then through the hearing itself. A positive outcome would remove crippling, poverty-entrenching religious discrimination from millions of Indian Christians, and a stumbling block from the path of many truth-seeking Indians.

India ‘s caste system is a rigid social class hierarchy rooted in the re-incarnation and karma doctrines of Hinduism. Through it, people are classified and organised according to descent and employment. Whilst caste is essentially part of Hinduism, it is entrenched in Indian culture and tradition, pervading all society across religious lines. The ultimate beneficiaries of the caste system are those at the top: the high caste Hindu priests, rulers and elites. The lowest group, existing beneath the caste system, is the Dalits (‘Untouchables’). Because of their caste-imposed poverty and virtual slavery, the vast majority of Dalits are poor, landless and illiterate. Whilst 2.3 percent of all Indians are Christian, 10 percent of all Dalits are Christian. In fact, 60 percent to 70 percent of India ‘s 2.5 million Christians are Dalits.

The movement to liberate the ‘Untouchables’ of India began with Christian missionaries like Carey in the 1800s. Under British rule, the ‘Depressed Classes’ were granted rights to affirmative action. Article 341 (1) of the Indian Constitution empowers the President of India to specify the castes, races or tribes or parts or groups within castes that can be deemed ‘Scheduled Castes’. Parliament may then make laws for affirmative action to benefit the ‘Scheduled Castes’. ‘Reservations’ are created in government, education, employment and ownership for members of ‘Scheduled Castes’, to correct their historic, entrenched disadvantage.

In 1950, the President of India introduced the ‘Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order’ that specified ‘no person who professes a religion different from Hindu shall be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste’. The 1950 Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order was amended in 1956 and 1990 to grant Sikh and Buddhist Dalits the same rights as Hindu Dalits. Christian and Muslim Dalits however still do not share these rights. Even though society shuns and enslaves them as Dalits, they are not eligible for Dalit rights to affirmative action and safeguards. This includes the right to compensation and equality before the law, which is why Dalit Christians are so vulnerable and so frequently targeted in violence and crime. Because of this religious discrimination that violates Article 15 of India’s Constitution, many converts are afraid to confess their Christian faith, and many truth-seekers are reluctant to consider Christ because of conversion.

India ‘s Supreme Court has allowed the hearing of a private citizen’s petition (No. 180 of 2004) challenging the legality of the 1950 Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order. This historic hearing is on Tuesday 18 October. Hindu nationalists oppose any affirmative action as a ‘conspiracy against Hindus’. Gospel for Asia ‘s (GFA) KP Yohannan believes that a ruling removing the crippling religious discrimination against Christians would open the floodgates of Dalits professing and seeking Christ. He fears there would not be enough trained Bible teachers to disciple them all. Despite inadequate funding, GFA in faith increased their Bible College intake this year, to prepare for the challenge!

Concerning caste, William Carey said, ‘Perhaps this is one of the strongest chains with which the devil ever bound the children of men. This is my comfort – that God can break it.’

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT:

God will be working in the hearts and minds of all those involved in the Supreme Court hearing, especially India’s Attorney General, Milon Banerji; the Chief Justice of India, Mr Justice Lakhoti; as well as India’s President APJ Abdul Kalam (a Muslim), Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (a Sikh), and Congress leader Sonia Ghandi (a Catholic).

All with authority and influence will be prepared and used by God to do his will and ‘bring justice to the nations’. (Isaiah 42:1-4)

The insidious poison and stain of caste will be totally purged from India’s churches and Christian communities, so that the Church of Jesus Christ in India will truly exemplify the heavenly reality of ‘all one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:26-29).