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Today, as I sat bored and sweating in the middle of a protest rally (more on that later), I found myself thinking about what Truthseekers is up against. I mean, there are hurdles, traps and enemies everywhere. Bringing an end to caste in India is an unbelievably audacious goal.
To begin with, Truthseekers is trying to reach a massive group of oppressed people that don’t even realize they are oppressed. The caste system teaches that the only way they can rise higher in the next life is if they stay utterly faithful to their low position in this life. The Brahmanical leadership perpetuates this mindset to stay on top.
But they don’t stop there. To maintain the status quo, these “religious leaders” have created thousands of sub-castes to promote prejudice and hierarchy among Shudras themselves! Now the lower castes actually fight each other for superiority, leaving the upper castes with all the power.
And this is the system Truthseekers is trying to change. This is what they’re up against. Crazy.
But the difficulties don’t end there. To bring an end to caste, Truthseekers tries to spread the transforming message of Jesus and his kingdom. Let’s just say this sounds a whole lot easier than it is…
In several Indian states, there are actually laws prohibiting conversion to Christianity unless both the converts and their pastor sign documents at the courthouse saying that they were not coerced! Can you imagine?
There are even several counter-missionary organizations that go around to villages preaching that Christians are evil and want to make the country a slave to the West. And it’s not hard to understand why they are angry.
You see, when people in India becomes Christians, they are usually taught about their uniqueness and value as children of God. Freed from the bonds of caste, many of these “converts” actually try to get good educations and high-paying jobs. So in many villages, the Christians have become relatively rich and influential, which infuriates their opponents even more.
In fact, this is the root cause of the violence happening now in Orissa. Since the killings and church burnings began early last week, Truthseekers has been working non-stop to organize Christians to protest the lack of government intervention.
Ah, but even here there are roadblocks. First of all, the Christian Church in India is very fractured. There is little or no collaboration between denominations, and with a message as contextualized as Truthseekers’, many churches don’t want anything to do with it.
And even when Christians can agree to stand together, it usually turns into just another dime-a-dozen protest rally like the one I attended today. Just walking to the car, we passed seven other rallies and hunger strikes protesting everything from unfair treatment of electrical workers to inadequate pension plans.
How does anyone hope to be noticed by the government when speakers have to be turned all the way up just to be heard over neighboring rallies?
So you get the picture. Deep cultural barriers. Real-life enemies. An indifferent government. It would be natural to assume that Truthseekers will never accomplish its mission.
But that assumption would be dead wrong.
Even though fighting impossible odds, Truthseekers is actually making a difference in this hostile environment. I’m not making this up! Mindsets are changing, oppressed people are finding freedom, and cracks in the walls of caste are beginning to widen.
Believe me. I struggle as much as anyone in believing that God can really move mountains. And at times I’ve felt immensely frustrated here.
But during my short time with Truthseekers, I’ve started to understand an incredible truth… When God sets his mind to something and his people are willing to act on it, nothing is impossible.
About the Author: Barry is the founder and director of World Next Door. A storyteller, traveller and giant nerd, he lives to compel suburban Americans to get engaged with social justice and find their place in God's kingdom revolution. His ultimate dream is to adopt a pet monkey named Kevin.