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International: India – Reaching the untouchables

September 2017

Nearly 30 years ago, Operation Mobilisation (OM), which had been in India since 1964, started to reach out to the lowest caste of Indian society, the Dalit-Bahujan people, or ‘untouchables’.

Joseph D’Souza, moderator bishop of the Good Shepherd Church of India, said: ‘The cry of the Dalits and other poor, marginalised people of India is for freedom.

‘This earnest plea is an appeal for massive social, moral and spiritual change. It is a call to rid their world of the oppression of caste ideology. It is a demand for simple human dignity, in response to the current realities of modern slavery, the oppression of women, economic discrimination and rampant poverty’.

In 2001, in partnership with others, the OM Good Shepherd ministry took steps to make transformational changes in communities through various ministries, such as medical clinics, primary schools in English, adult literacy classes, and vocational and business training.

It was obvious early on, that education for Dalit children was the key to breaking the cycle of poverty and oppression that kept an entire people group from rising above the lowest rung of Indian society.

Today, more than 90 per cent of graduates from Good Shepherd Schools go on to take professional or university courses. Over 100 schools teach about 26,000 students, all from the Dalit background. Bishop D’Souza commented, ‘It is truly of God that we have been able to free this many children. The impact it has had on communities across the nation is amazing’.

Janet Weber