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Supreme Court Again Delays Dalit Ruling

Contact: Taun Cortado, Gospel for Asia, 972-300-7777


DELHI, India, Dec. 5 /Christian Newswire/ -- India's Supreme Court blamed the country's National Scheduled Caste Commission for the latest delay in reaching a ruling in a case involving the civil rights of millions of Christian Dalits ("Untouchables"). The Supreme Court had planned to issue a decision on November 27, but took no action. The court said the Caste Commission, a government-appointed committee charged with studying the issue, again failed to present its findings to the court.


"Once again, I am asking that Christians around the world to pray for the outcome of this case," said K.P. Yohannan, founder and president of Gospel for Asia. "It grieves our hearts to know that these precious people lose their civil rights when they choose to follow Christ. We must intercede on their behalf."


The case, filed in 2004 by India's Center for Public Interest Litigation, seeks an amendment to a 57-year-old law restricting Dalit Christians from participating in India's reservation system. This affirmative action program was instituted in 1950 when the caste system was outlawed. Along with other legal protections, the law sets aside a percentage of government jobs and college enrollment slots for Dalits. The goal of the program is to help Dalits climb out of the centuries of caste-defined abuse.


Shortly after the reservation program was introduced, it was amended to limit those rights to Dalits who follow the Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh religions, which are dominant in India. Christianity and Islam are the only faiths excluded from the reservation benefits. If a Christian holds a reservation job or is a student in one of the reserved slots, they can be fired or kicked out of school for choosing to follow Christ.


Opponents of expanding the reservations to Christians argue that the caste system was formerly part of the Hindu faith; therefore the reservations should only apply to Hindus and to Buddhists and Sikhs, who are seen as branches of Hinduism. Christians point out that caste discrimination is a deeply-ingrained aspect of Indian society and is not simply tied to one religion. The caste system was outlawed in 1950, but it still maintains a stronghold over much of society. For that reason, the Dalits are routinely oppressed and subjected to inhumane treatment, regardless of their religion.


The Supreme Court will conduct another hearing on this case in 2008.


No matter the eventual outcome of the court case, Gospel for Asia missionaries remain committed to reaching the Dalits.


"We want them to know that there is a God who loves them and cares about what happens to them," Yohannan said.


In addition to ministering to the spiritual needs of the Dalits, GFA missionaries also offer them practical helps, like literacy classes for adults and the Bridge of Hope program for Dalit children.


Gospel for Asia is a mission organization involved in evangelism and church planting in Asia's unreached regions. Currently Gospel for Asia supports more than 16,500 church planters in 10 countries. These missionaries have established about 30,000 churches among unreached villages and people groups. Gospel for Asia is also committed to training native missionaries. The organization's 54 Bible colleges are preparing thousands of students to become full-time church planters.