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India: Crucial Supreme Court Hearing on October 18th

October 11, 2005

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 the enormously high cost 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).

\'All the believers were together and had everything in common.
Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had
need... And the Lord added to their number daily those who were
being saved.\' Acts 2:42-47 excerpts.

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SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE:
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CRUCIAL SUPREME COURT HEARING IN INDIA ON 18 OCTOBER

India\'s lowest caste, the Dalits (Untouchables), have the
constitutional right to affirmative action in education, jobs and
other ways to help correct the entrenched disadvantage and
injustice they suffer. An Order passed in 1950 removed that right
from all non-Hindus. It was later amended so that Buddhist and Sikh
Dalits could benefit, but Dalits who profess Christ lose all their
rights. As this religious discrimination forces them into crippling
poverty, many Dalits keep their faith secret, and many others find
this cost of conversion such a stumbling block they are simply too
afraid to consider Christ. On Tuesday 18 October, an historic
Supreme Court action will challenge the 1950 Order. If this
succeeds, Dalits - some 60 percent of India\'s 2.5 million
Christians - will get true religious liberty. Please pray for God
to bring justice and liberty to India.

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The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this
RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray
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issues, and in particular to uphold the Church
where it is suffering persecution.

RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC.
Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.