Emma Foster - Community Newswire
Churches around the UK are being urged to show solidarity with India's Dalits, often referred to as "the untouchables", on Sunday.
There are approximately 300 million Dalits, people outside India's caste system who face discrimination in Indian society and around the world.
Churches are being asked to hold special prayers for Dalits as part of part of Dalit Liberation Sunday, a joint initiative of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) and the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI).
Although caste discrimination has been abolished under the Indian constitution, discrimination and prejudice against Dalits remains widespread.
Rev David Gamble, ex-president of the Methodist Conference, recently attended the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Church of North India.
He said: "I am very pleased to see that the Indian churches are addressing the caste question, for example at the recent NCCI conference on justice for Dalits.
"Anything that can be done here to support their efforts, by prayer and action, will contribute to the Gospel call to mission in today's world."
Lord Harries of Pentregarth, former Bishop of Oxford and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Dalits, said: "Caste discrimination is still a major problem both inside and outside the Indian churches.
"I warmly commend Dalit Liberation Sunday and hope very much that churches of all denominations will include the Dalits of India in their prayers on that day."
Dr Devasahayam, Bishop of the Madras Diocese of Church of South India, who is a Dalit, said: "The Indian Church is in a sorry state. Church will fail if it does not weed out caste within and outside.
"Both cannot go together as Christianity is life-giving, while casteism is a sin and scandal.
"Christ must save us from the abominable sin of caste. If He can't, then the Gospel is powerless."
Churches are encouraged to have special prayers on Sunday, preach sermons related to Dalits and observe the day in creative ways.
A special liturgy for Dalit Liberation Sunday, together with a range of other resources for prayer and reflection, can be found on the website www.nccindia.in.