Dalit Theologians And Holy Spirit

A. Gnanadason, 'Feminist Theology: An Indian Perspective' in R. S. Sugirtharajah and 5 C. Hargreaves (eds.), Readings in Indian Christian Theology, vol. 1 (London: SPCK, 1993) pp. 59—71.

60 M. E. Prabhakar (ed.), Towards a Dalit Theology (Delhi: ISPCK-CISRS-CDLM, 1989).

A. P. Nirmal, 'Towards a Christian Dalit Theology' in A. P. Nirmal and V. Devasahayam (eds.), A Reader in Dalit Theology (Madras: Gurukul, 1985), pp. 53—70 at 58.

liberty of the children of God'. He denounces Hindu gods like Rama who, according to a story, killed a dalit for daring to perform a religious act and argues that 'the God whom Jesus Christ revealed and about whom the prophets of the Old Testament spoke is a dalit God'. That is, 'He is a servant-God - a God who serves', as was Jesus Christ, whom the Gospel writers identified with the Servant of God of Isaiah 53.61 Jesus, both the Son of God and Son of Man, like the dalits, 'encountered rejection, mockery, contempt, suffering, and finally, death'. He fought for the rights of the excluded in the society, when he cleansed the temple in Jerusalem, and the price was the cross where he cried of God-forsakenness. Nirmal writes, 'That feeling of being God-forsaken is at the heart of our dalit experiences and dalit consciousness in India.'62 Nirmal left the development of a dalit theology of the Holy Spirit to the younger theologians, who have identified the Spirit with the deep sighs of the dalits and the groaning of the whole creation, which suffers destruction and domination by the powerful. Of the essays of other dalit theologians in the above-mentioned Reader, the most notable are those of Devasahayam (b. 1949),63 who discusses the connection between pollution, poverty and power-lessness, and James Massey (b. 1943), who identifies life-context, history and language as the main requirements of a dalit theology, which he elaborates in a separate book.64

Dalit theology is still emerging and promises to be the most authentic and creative theology in India. For example, there are studies of subaltern religion, which show the liberative elements of dalit symbols. The drum is identified as one of the most prominent among a particular dalit community. It represents divine-human communication and the Christic principle of both resistance and emancipation.65 And there are also attempts to develop a 'systematic' dalit theology.66 An important question for dalit theology is whether it can be (selectively) inter-faith. This is because, while most of the Indian Christians are dalits, most of the dalits

61 A. P. Nirmal, 'Towards a Christian Dalit Theology' in A. P. Nirmal and V. Devasahayam (eds.),

62 A Reader in Dalit Theology (Madras: Gurukul, 1985), pp. 53—70 at 63—5.

A. P. Nirmal, 'Towards a Christian Dalit Theology' in A. P. Nirmal and V. Devasahayam (eds.),

63 A Reader in Dalit Theology (Madras: Gurukul, 1985), pp. 53—70 at 69.

V. Devasahayam, 'Pollution, Poverty and Powerlessness — A Dalit Perspective' in A. P. Nirmal and

64 V. Devasahayam (eds.), A Reader in Dalit Theology (Madras: Gurukul, 1985), pp. 1—22.

J. Massey, Towards Dalit Hermeneutics: Rereading the Texts, the History and the Literature (Delhi:

S. Clarke, Dalits and Christianity — Subaltern Religion and Liberation Theology in India (Delhi:

66 Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 163—5.

See C. Singaram, 'Can Dalit Theology be Systematised? A Tentative Proposal' in I. Selvanayagam (ed.), Moving Forms of Theology (Delhi: ISPCK, 2002), pp. 126—33.

are registered as Hindus, though originally they did not have anything to do with Brahminic Hinduism.

Dalit woman is known as 'the dalit of the dalit' and 'the thrice alienated', having to experience manifold suffering and pain.67 If this is the case of women, what about dalit children? In any context children are the most vulnerable and their experience must be taken as an authentic resource for a creative theology. No other victim is as innocent as a child. In an initial attempt, I have observed that 'All types of Christian theology known in history... are based on the experience and articulation of the adults, the grown-ups. They are necessarily wordy, prepositional and argumentative.'68 I have pointed out some of the terrible experiences of children in India like child-marriage, sexual abuse, domestic violence, female infanticide, street-life, child labour and negligence. Jesus put the children in the middle of the adult community and interpreted them as the primary recipients of the Kingdom of God, revealers of God's love and the symbols of powerlessness. Referring to observations made by psychologists and others, I have stressed the importance of becoming children, again and again, for achieving true maturity and wholeness.

Tribal identity also seeks theological expression in India. Along with the dalits, the tribal communities, who account for about four per cent of the population, experience oppression, mainly from invaders from the plains. The central belt and north-eastern regions are the two areas having the greatest concentration of tribals, who are themselves of varied language and customs. The best representative of theologians reflecting on the experience of people in the central belt is Nirmal Minz (b. 1927), a Lutheran bishop based in Bihar. Building on the fruits of anthropological studies and biblical views on covenant, Minz's focus is on land. According to Minz, the corporate ownership of the land gives tribal people a 'sacred' sense of community and a 'harmonious or balanced relationship of man-nature and spirit'.69 He believes that the generous and accommodative attitude of the tribal people was exploited by the invaders, and the new order introduced by Jesus requires a 'servant-politics' for its full realization within a covenantal relationship. Wati Longchar (b. 1961), a Baptist

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