The people are starving to death," said Dr. Ana Steele
, who's been advocating for the Dalits for two years and recently returned from India on a short-term mission trip.
"I've never seen skinnier people in my life," she
Dalits and other backward caste members are expected to perform menial tasks, such as disposing of dead bodies, unclogging sewers with their bare hands and cleaning latrines.
A member of an upper caste cannot even touch a Dalit, except in acts of violence or sexual abuse.And in some Indian towns, Dalits are not even allowed to walk down the streets in the daylight hours."Their shadow is considered unholy and able to pollute an upper caste person who might cross their shadow," said Steele, who serves in the Missions Ministry at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale and is a former faculty member at Harvard University.
trip to India, she
saw a Dalit woman who had been hit by a bus lying dead in the street.There were rocks surrounding her
body, along with a crowd of passersby , but no one touched her
"In life and death, Dalits are considered untouchable., She
will lie there until someone in her
family comes and drags her
off the street," Steele
said."There's no dignity even in death.
It's a time of peace," Steele
"The question could be raised, ,Why didn't Ambedkar become a Christian?'" Steele
said."At that time the Christian Church
was still practicing caste.Today the Christian Church workers and missionaries are the hope of India."Steele
was blessed with the opportunity to be a part of the rally to educate the Dalits about religious freedom.
We desire that same victory for you," Steele
According to Steele
, the Hindu government is a "well-oiled machine" with a mission to keep caste in place.
"It is evil," she
"The only way that they won't be scarred for life is through Christ," Steele
"They will always be Dalits in this life, but when they become Christians, they are taught their value in Christ and given hope to endure to the end," Steele
said."The answer lies within the world community , not in India.After 3,000 years, we can safely conclude that the change will not come from within."
According to Steele
, lawmakers in other democratic nations, like the United States and the United Kingdom, are key players in ending the injustices Dalits face.
"We are a country with a great history of taking a stand against injustice within our borders and on foreign soil.We are a country of activists, proponents of justice and freedom," Steele
said."We need to remain that way for the sake of the least of these in India."BEAUTY & JUSTICE
: Two Dalit girls in traditional Indian dress (top).Dr. Ana Steele encourages Dalits at a rally in Nagpur, with Dr. Joseph D'Souza, of Dalit Freedom Network, at right (bottom).