Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christ Plus Caste = Persecution

Christ Plus Caste System Equals Persecution

Terry Somerville

B C Canada

Dear Friends

I have been to India many times working with our partner "Harvest India". Often I meet pastors at who have lost homes and churches or fled for their lives. Persecution is nothing new, but not on the scale happening in Orissa. In August a leading Hindu militant was killed by unknown assailants. Even though no Christians were implicated, (it was likely Maoist) Christians have been mercilessly persecuted throughout that state and elsewhere.

Two weeks ago Asian News reported the toll in Orissa as:

-60 Christians have been killed;
-4,600 homes belonging to Christians have been burned
-178 churches have been destroyed or damaged
-13 schools or social centers have been destroyed
-50,000 people have been forced to flee
-18,000 have been wounded.

Meanwhile the police and government do next to nothing, (or arrest the Christians!) and the violence spreads. Unfortunately this is typical in India and the world doesn't care. What is the real story?

The Real Story - The Caste System

The real story is the caste system is threatened by the freedom Christianity brings. The caste system ranks human beings from demi-gods to sub-human. It is sustained by the Hindu view of reincarnation, that righteousness in your previous life determines your birth in this life. You may come back as a dog or a god. This is why a cow, snake or even a rat can be sacred. Very simplified (there are many sub categories) the caste is ranked as follows:

1. Brahmans: the priests and teachers
2. Kshatriyas: the rulers and soldiers
3. Vaisyas: merchants and traders
4. Sudras: laborers
5. Outcasts- the Dalits or untouchables. These are considered too impure or polluted to rank as worthy humans or even have a caste.

Even though the caste system is officially outlawed in India, it is still practiced by the government and Indian society! Your caste is part of every record. Every birth is registered under a caste designation, based on your parents caste. Even the Christian school we sponsor must report the child’s caste to the government, along with attendance and grades .

No Budget For Clean Water - The Mayor is Low Caste!

I remember meeting a mayor for a well dedication. With tears in his eyes he thanked us for the well, and said his people were dying because of the bad water. When I asked about government wells, I found out that he could not obtain funding because he was low caste. What a contrast! When we drove to the well he rode in a government car belonging to a city employee. Why? The employee was a higher caste and could have a government vehicle. The lower caste mayor was not allowed a car! On it goes, into jobs and employment.

Temples Are BIG BUSINESS in India.

Temples is the largest government department with the biggest budget. Private temples are not taxed. For example a factory owner build a temple near our partner in India. He hired a priest and had a dedication. We had a look and saw people dumping pillow cases of gold and silver items in a pile four feet high! Over twenty-five million dollars US was given in offerings that day! The business man takes the money, tax free! Add to this the spin off businesses building the temples, and making idols of gold, silver, precious stones and wood, and this is a huge industry! When Hindus turn to Christ the cash flow is threatened.

Dalits Make Good Slaves

The United Nations calls the labor of the Dalit caste a "contemporary form of slavery". The higher castes use them as a source of almost free labor, and they willingly submit believing this is their destiny. Here is one womans description of her work from the 2002 United Nations report on human rights.

"Forty-year-old Manju, a manual scavenger employed by the urban municipality, described her daily routine and wages: "In the morning I work from 6.00 am to 11.00 am cleaning the dry latrines. I collect the feces and carry it on my head to the river half a kilometer away seven to ten times a day. In the afternoon I clean the gutters. Another Bhangi collects the rubbish from the gutters and places it outside. Then I come and pick it up and take it one kilometer away. My husband died 10 years ago since then I have been doing this. Today I earn 30 rupees a day (US$0.75). Nine years ago I earned Rs. 16, then Rs. 22, and for the last two years it has been Rs. 30. But the payments are uncertain. For the last two months we have not received anything. Every two months they pay, but there is no certainty. We are paid by the Nagar Palika municipality chief officer.”

Dalits are not owned as slaves, but being uneducated, they are easily indebted in legal contracts to a life of servitude. For example, earlier this year I met a Dalit boy in a remote church orphanage. He is about ten years old. His mother had died and the father remarried. They no longer wanted him so they sold him. ( i.e.: the new owner paid the father for the boy in a labor contract) The village pastor raised thirty five dollars to "buy him back" and set him free. He is now being cared for and educated in one of Harvest India s village churches.

Christianity Threatens The World Systems

When a Hindu comes to Christ their whole world changes. It upsets the world financial systems rooted in the caste! The conversion of Dalits is the trigger point for persecution, because they become educated and don't keep their place as a slave class work force.

What do I mean?

1. No more temples. When Hindus find forgiveness of their sin based on the sacrifice of Christ they no longer serve other gods. Christians don't buy idols or make offerings! As conversion increases this is bad for temple business .

2. No more caste. New Christians soon realize that all men are equal in the sight of God. Because righteousness is based on faith in Christ there is no reincarnation and need to work out self righteousness as a dog or Dalit. The Dalits who come to Christ understand they are free men and not under religious submission to the caste system. This is bad for the businesses that would misuse them.

3. Educated Dalits escape slavery. Christian schools in India focus on the lowest castes who would be left illiterate. Once educated they are no longer prey for those who would enslave them. They usually become Christians in the process. Educated Dalits escape slavery!

Yep. This persecution is all about money, driven by a religious spirit! Just like Paul encountered in Ephesus.

24 For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen;

25 Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth.

26 Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands:

27 So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.

28 And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath,

Acts 19:24-28

What Can We Do?

1. Pray. God still delivers His people. India is having a revival, and this is causing social upheaval. The law says there is freedom of religion. Pray that the laws will be enforced.

2. Use any influence you have to alert media and government of the situation in India. Hindu police and officials typically look the other way. Even those who are sympathetic are unwilling to go against the flow unless there is international pressure.

3. Financially support the Christian organizations and schools in India. Education of the low caste is the best hope of ending the slavery and reaching India for Christ. They will grow up with a new point of view!

For further information on persecution of Christians in India see. Note - these include some graphic pictures.

Persecution Update India

Gospel For Asia

Our Dalit School Project

Total Change Ministries has partnered with Harvest India to build a school for 1000 Untouchable Children! Pray that it will be protected! We have already invested over $175,000. We need $50,000 to compete the flooring, wiring and woodwork.

We hope to open the school in 2009.

Will you help?

Visiting The Dalit school project March 2008

Send support to

Harvest India Canada

c/o Total Change Ministries

100 Jones Rd

Campbell River BC Canada


IN USA identify support for

"Total Change Ministries"

Urban Pipeline

602 Valley St.

Seattle, WA 98109


Terry Somerville

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