When Chandran Paul Martin spoke at the ELCA Global Mission Event in Bozeman, Mont., about the plight of India's Dalit people, participants flooded him with questions: "How can this happen?"; "Why are they treated this way?"; and "What can be done to solve this issue?"
Martin, executive secretary of the United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India, told The Lutheran that the word Dalit, to the people it describes, means they are crushed and stamped upon. The root "dal" can be found in Hebrew (meaning low, weak or poor) and Sanskrit (split or open). They were known as the "untouchables."
In 2005, the church will start a human rights advocacy campaign for the Dalits themed "Journey for Justice." Martin hopes the campaign can be a deciding factor for Dalit liberation through the help of organizations such as the Lutheran World Federation.
"[We] work for Dalit liberation not for the reward of conversion," Martin explains, saying the church is concerned and wants to help end suffering, caste "racism," violence and economic deprivation.
Martin said the Dalit people are drawn to Christianity because "Christ knew what it was to be Dalit." They relate to the suffering, as well as the hope Jesus Christ gives them.
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