Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Free the Dalit

So why, you may wonder, did I even go over to India in the first place?

Anyone remotely familiar with Mother Teresa's work is probably aware of the caste system in Hinduism and India. Basically, it's the organization of different groups of people in India. Hindu teaching holds that people come from different parts of a primordial being to make up one body. The main castes, or varnas, are the Brahmins (priests and teachers born from the mouth), Kshatriya (rulers and soldiers born from the arms), Vaisyas (merchants and traders born from the thighs) and Shudras (laborers born from the feet). Each varna is further divided within itself, forming a sub-caste system within a system. 

After all that comes the Untouchables (or the Dalits, as they have begun to call themselves in recent years), who are considered too defiled to even make up a part of the caste system. There are an estimated 250 million Dalits in India. 

They are out-castes in the truest sense of the word.

Despite their status of being "untouchable," Dalit women are often victims to human trafficking. Because they have no skills and no rights, they are made to be prostitutes, often times at a very young age. An estimated 25-100 million people are involved in human trafficking in India, estimates vary so much because many cases are unreported making it difficult to determine just how many are involved.

Within the last 50 years, a movement among the Untouchables has began to organize to eradicate the subjugation of their people. They have begun to call themselves the Dalits (the crushed, or oppressed).

One particular group that is leading the way in this movement is the Dalit Freedom Network who seek to prevent child trafficking through education.

Friends Church in Yorba Linda, Calif. put the trip together to bring awareness to the situation in India and the work they've been doing to prevent children from falling victim to the system through education. We toured the schools and slums and met the leaders of the Dalit Freedom Network in India. All I can say now is that what these people are doing in revolutionary. It truly is undermining an entire social and religious structure that has been in place for thousands of years. Pray for them all, they need it.

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