No-one Can Serve Christ and Caste!


An interview with Rev Sunil Raj Philip

Sunil, you travelled further than most to be at the conference, can you tell us where you have come from and what drew you to MWM 2014?

Thanks a lot for this great opportunity to be with the people with experiential wisdom in the MWM conference. I came down for this conference from Nagpur, the centre of India, representing the Commission on Dalits of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) as its executive secretary. I am a priest of the Central Kerala diocese of the Church of south India.

The two angles in the theme of the MWM conference, are actually close to my heart. This conference was talking about injustice in south Asia and the most prominent is casteism, which is dealt with by the Commission on Dalits. Christian art is my passion and I have done my theological theses on it.

As Executive Secretary of the Commission on Dalits, I expect you have been involved in difficult and controversial conversations. What are the main challenges at the moment? 

The major challenge faced by the Commission on Dalits is the casteism within the Indian church itself. We have been fighting against these elements within the church by leading a campaign with a slogan ‘no one can serve Christ and caste’.

Dalits who are converted into Christianity and Islam are discriminated against by the denial of many rights. With the partnership of the Catholic Conference of India, the NCCI has been fighting against this injustice for the past five decades. When the Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims protested against this discrimination in the last year in New Delhi under the leadership of the bishops, nuns and priests were brutally assaulted by the police force.

There is a great deal of religious and cultural heritage invested in the caste system. How does your faith inform your work alongside the Dalit people? 

The religious and the cultural heritage invested in the caste system are portrayed as the golden past of India, which is questioned and opposed by the Dalits in India. Christian theology could be used as an effective tool to dismantle the myths connected with caste system, because the basic theological aspects of Christianity talk about equality and justice. For a Dalit in India, the new heaven and new earth is a caste- less society. Any work against the caste- based discrimination thus becomes a Christian work!

What is the main idea you are taking away from MWM?

The main message I carry back is really highly motivating and generating optimism. I see that the international community is increasingly aware of the Dalit issues and expresses the solidarity with the Dalits who have been oppressed. This factor will be a stimulating message for the Dalit communities in India.

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