“Dalitekklesia: A Church from Below” by Raj Bharat Patta is the fifth book of the series “Re-imagining Church as Event: Perspectives from the Margins”.
What is the locus, where is the locality and where is the location of the church in India today? These are the questions that this book “Dalitekklesia: A Church from Below” primarily engages with. The margins in India are nothing new, as most of the church and society are defined in terms of purity and pollution, privilege and prestige or principalities and powers, leaving a major section of people and perspectives as powerless and on the margins. This book’s locus is on understanding God, church and theology from the perspectives of Dalits, who have been pushed to the margins for ages as they have been outcasts in the hierarchical caste system.
“Dalitekklesia: A Church from Below” offers a Dalit understanding of God as a suffering God, and offers the church as a church of the margins, recognising and acknowledging the agency of Dalits in this endeavour. The locality of the Indian church is discussed by bringing in the contextual social analysis of the margins, particularly discussing the locality as Peta, which is used for Dalit localities. The location of the church is defined by its public witness and therefore this book offers some perspectives in that direction of reimagining the church from below. The aim of this book is to engage in critical reflection on the very understanding of church from below, for the church traditionally has been understood as a hierarchical church running on the model of exercising power top-down. This book is an invitation for all those people who see the vision of a church bottom-up, where powers and principalities are dismantled. When all our churches become churches from below, the vision towards a new creation is possible.
Raj Bharat Patta’s desire to broaden the scope of Dalitekklesia to be dialogical by engaging with the works of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar for a theological praxis finds relevance in building Dalit solidarity and theology. His imaginative conversation engaging three prominent progressive contexts—his own Dalit Christian identity, the Martin Luther Reformation tradition, and the Ecumenical initiatives by the Pope—is interesting, opening a new window to the history of Christianity from Dalitekklesia.
Liaison Officer for EMS Germany, Church of South India Synod
Raj Bharat Patta has brought about how ‘No one can serve Christ and Caste’ very clearly through the perspective of the most marginalised in our society and is urging us to reimagine our public witness through the Dalit missiology which we have most neglected in our church bodies as well as in our own families.
Convener, Global Forum on Discrimination Based on Work and
Descent, and Chairperson, Asia Dalit Rights Forum
Cover Design by Immanuel Paul Vivekananda.