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ICC Note:

The upcoming graduation ceremony of thousands of Dalit Christians is a monumental achievement in a country where these students are discriminated against for being Dalits and for being Christians.

Christian Today (01/23/06) – A record-breaking graduating class of over 10,137 students, many of whom are Dalits, is expected to take place in Kota , India , next month.

Hopegivers International – with some 92 Bible institutes and one seminary – could produce the world’s largest seminary graduation in February, with most of the students being Dalit Christians. A number of Christian leaders will speak at the historic graduation, including US theologian and seminary president Dr. Paige Patterson.

Last year’s graduation of 6,300 students was met by well-organised attempts by terrorists to prevent the event from occurring.

“Much of the persecution that our students face every day is because so many of them are Dalits,” Dr. Samuel Thomas, president of Hopegivers International, said in a Jan. 16 press statement released by the organisation. “This is the secret cause of much of the violence that we have seen at recent graduations. Discrimination against Dalits is dying, but not without a fight.”

For over 3,000 years, the Dalits have faced severe persecution by the Hindu majority. As an oppressed, downtrodden, and exploited social group, the Dalits today make up nearly 25 percent of the population in India and are left to perform the most menial and grueling jobs while daily enduring a life of deprivation, hostility and neglect, according to Hopegivers.

Hopegivers International has been working for more than 40 years to change the situation of the Dalits in India .

“The treatment of the Dalits has been to our national shame,” said Thomas. “But, today, the tide is turning. Millions of Dalits are finding hope and freedom through the Hopegivers message, and all of India is reaping the benefits of the release of their potential.”

The seminary accepts students of all castes, breaking down the cultural barrier with their leadership institutes and theological seminary.

“Although people of all castes are welcome in Hopegivers schools, the majority of our students are Dalits. Caste discrimination is wrong wherever it appears and we are excited about playing a leading role in Dalit emancipation,” concluded Thomas.

Upon graduation from the Hopegivers International institution in February, students will receive a bicycle and a one-way train ticket to their first assignment.

“No longer ‘unwanted burdens’ or ‘outcastes,’ these Dalits instead become assets to the entire nation—to the needy of every caste, creed and religion,” Hopegivers declared.