Dalit Christians and Muslims at a protest rally in New Delhi March 10, urging the government to grant them equal rights afforded to Dalit Hindus. (ucanews.com photo by Bijay Kumar Minj)
Indian Catholic bishops’ office for Dalit Christians has announced plans to help entrepreneurs from this socio-economically poor community to set up businesses for their advancement.
"Our office is in the process of identifying and exploring suitable candidates for this," said Father Z. Devasagaya Raj, secretary of the office for Dalit and indigenous people.
"Job opportunities are drying up and entrepreneurship is one of the best means for development of a community," he said.
Christians of Dalit origin, as they come from former untouchable groups, are socially and economically poor, he said.
His office plan’s to bring together Christians who have entrepreneurial abilities to help then "explore the opportunities with better coordination and cooperation" and link them with the already existing Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry to develop their business.
The bishops’ office has already appealed to Dalit Christians doing business with a minimum turnover of 500,000 rupees (some US$8,000) per year to contact their office for help.
It's estimated that at least half of India's 25 million Christians are Dalits, who are often the target of oppression and persecution.
Indian law allows for job and educational quotas to Hindu Dalits as a means to improve their situation but such privileges are denied to Christians and Muslims of Dalit origin on the grounds that their religions do not recognize the caste system.
Father Gyanprakash Topno, spokesman for the Indian Catholic bishops' conference said he hope's the bishops’ initiative will help motivate young Dalits to enter the business and industry sector "and carve their own niche."
The bishops’ initiative has been largely appreciated.
Thomas Franklin Caesar, an activist associated with Dalit movements in India said it will encourage Dalits to spread the spirit of enterprise to other community members.
"Once they are self-sufficient they can help their fellow brethren" said Caesar, a Supreme Court lawyer.
K.K.L. Gautam, another Dalit activist and Supreme Court lawyer said the bishops’ initiative was the "best way" to help marginalized people as "people look at the church with hope."
The church’s national and international network will help Dalit Christians connect with other people easily, he said.