Joseph D’Souza

/Joseph D’Souza

RNS | Is It Time to Add ‘Caste’ as a Category in US Anti-Discrimination Laws?

2020-09-11T18:14:07+00:00

It’s a statement many Americans pass right over as they are filling out job applications: “No applicant for employment … is denied equal opportunity because of race, color, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, pregnancy, status as a parent, national origin, age, disability (physical or mental), family medical history or genetic information, political affiliation, military service, or other non-merit based factors.” This list is part of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s policy statement. A product of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, the policy initially protected Americans from employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The law has now been expanded to include more than 15 categories. Yet one category has been conspicuously absent over the years: caste. Caste discrimination stems from India’s 3,000-year-old system that stratifies society into groups or “castes” based on the purity of a person’s birth. Those belonging to low castes — such as the Dalits, formerly known as “untouchables” — are consigned to the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. Despite the fact that India banned the practice of untouchability more than 70 years ago, Dalits and other low castes face discrimination and even violence to this day. While many Americans may think the caste system exists only in India and other South Asian countries, it’s present all over the world, including in the U.S. Take, for instance, the recent case of California Department of Fair Employment and Housing v. Cisco Systems Inc. An Indian man — identified by the alias “John Doe” in the case — alleged that his supervisor, another Indian man, discriminated him because he was a Dalit. According to the case, the two men knew each other from their college days in [...]

RNS | Is It Time to Add ‘Caste’ as a Category in US Anti-Discrimination Laws?2020-09-11T18:14:07+00:00

RNS | American Christians Need to Reinvent Their Theology and Practice of Missions

2020-07-16T14:18:14+00:00

On a stormy August day in 1806, five students at Williams College in Massachusetts were gathered in a field for a prayer meeting when a thunderstorm suddenly broke over them. The students ran to the nearest shelter — a haystack — where, as they continued praying, they were burdened to take the gospel to the nations, particularly South Asia. Known as the Haystack Prayer Meeting, the gathering is considered by church historians as the awakening of the North American missions movement. It grew to enlist a vast number of churches and organizations that every year commission individuals and whole families to go overseas and share the good news. Many go on trips of a few weeks or months. Others relocate to their host countries and spend decades — even the rest of their lives — overseas. They learn the language, adopt local customs and integrate into the community with the purpose of winning souls for Jesus. For 200 years, this has been the model of North American missions. It has succeeded in some cultural settings, while in others it has struggled and even backfired, to the detriment of the gospel. Now, the COVID-19 pandemic has ground the missions machine to a near halt. As the church figures out the way forward, this may be a moment to rethink the traditional sending framework. The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the inequalities millions of individuals experience every day. Unfortunately, many American Christians, focused on the spiritual aspect of the gospel, shy away from these social issues. They perceive racial reconciliation, immigration reform and economic inequalities as part of a social justice agenda associated with progressive politics. Influenced by the particularly Western idea of separation of church and state, [...]

RNS | American Christians Need to Reinvent Their Theology and Practice of Missions2020-07-16T14:18:14+00:00

Newsweek | The World Has Naively Believed That China Has Good Intentions. It Doesn’t.

2020-06-24T20:34:17+00:00

If you have ever walked by Mumbai’s southern seacoast, you may have noticed a strange-looking tower rising above the apartment complexes. Measuring 27-stories high and featuring three helipads, an 80-seat theater and an 168-car garage, among other amenities, the skyrise is the residence of India’s wealthiest man, Mukesh Ambani. It’s estimated to be worth at least $1 billion, making it the most expensive private home in the world. Go less than eight miles north along the coastline and you will reach Dharavi, one of the largest slums in the world. Measuring .81 sq mi, the slum is home to over 1 million Indians, making it one of the most densely populated areas on Earth. Entire families cram into one-room houses inside Dharavi’s labyrinthine neighborhoods, where diseases run rampant because of the confined and unsanitary conditions people live in. This is not the first time the opulence of Ambani’s home has been compared to Dharavi, which was famously depicted in the film “Slumdog Millionaire.” Since it was erected in 2010, Ambani’s home has served as the quintessential metaphor that captures the absurd scope of India’s economic inequality, which is among the worst in the world. But the economic fallout of Covid-19 is exacerbating India’s inequality to a point beyond what metaphors can capture. Economic forecasts estimate that India’s GDP will contract by 4-5% in the coming year, severely impacting major industries and India’s emerging middle class. But it is India’s informal economy, where nearly 81% of Indians work, that will be hit hardest. This bottom half of India, as Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee calls it, is not simply facing an economic crisis but an existential one as they struggle to put food on their tables. These are [...]

Newsweek | The World Has Naively Believed That China Has Good Intentions. It Doesn’t.2020-06-24T20:34:17+00:00

The Christian Post | COVID-19 Exposes Dire Living Conditions of India’s Bottom Half Billion

2020-06-23T20:14:23+00:00

If you have ever walked by Mumbai’s southern seacoast, you may have noticed a strange-looking tower rising above the apartment complexes. Measuring 27-stories high and featuring three helipads, an 80-seat theater and an 168-car garage, among other amenities, the skyrise is the residence of India’s wealthiest man, Mukesh Ambani. It’s estimated to be worth at least $1 billion, making it the most expensive private home in the world. Go less than eight miles north along the coastline and you will reach Dharavi, one of the largest slums in the world. Measuring .81 sq mi, the slum is home to over 1 million Indians, making it one of the most densely populated areas on Earth. Entire families cram into one-room houses inside Dharavi’s labyrinthine neighborhoods, where diseases run rampant because of the confined and unsanitary conditions people live in. This is not the first time the opulence of Ambani’s home has been compared to Dharavi, which was famously depicted in the film “Slumdog Millionaire.” Since it was erected in 2010, Ambani’s home has served as the quintessential metaphor that captures the absurd scope of India’s economic inequality, which is among the worst in the world. But the economic fallout of Covid-19 is exacerbating India’s inequality to a point beyond what metaphors can capture. Economic forecasts estimate that India’s GDP will contract by 4-5% in the coming year, severely impacting major industries and India’s emerging middle class. But it is India’s informal economy, where nearly 81% of Indians work, that will be hit hardest. This bottom half of India, as Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee calls it, is not simply facing an economic crisis but an existential one as they struggle to put food on their tables. These are [...]

The Christian Post | COVID-19 Exposes Dire Living Conditions of India’s Bottom Half Billion2020-06-23T20:14:23+00:00

RNS | India can take lessons from US in our struggle to end casteism

2020-06-15T15:32:43+00:00

Over the past two weeks, I have watched with amazement as George Floyd, a black man killed by a police officer, has not only become a cultural symbol of protest against systemic racism but a global phenomenon. And while rioting is not the right way to pursue justice, I’ve been heartened to see America’s democracy continue to work and move forward, however imperfectly. It gives me hope that India, where I sit, can confront its past and present history of casteism. Though slavery and untouchability have been abolished in both nations, neither of the world’s largest democracies has proved able to eradicate discrimination and ensure equal justice for all. In India, the caste system has resulted in the discrimination and oppression of millions of men and women not just for centuries, but millennia. It is perhaps the oldest form of social stratification, and to this day it assigns people in India their worth, rights, privileges, occupation and place in society based on their birth. So-called low castes — Dalits, “untouchables” and tribals — have borne the economic, physical and spiritual brunt of this system. Though its roots are in religion, it discriminates against people regardless of religious affiliation. And similar to the discrimination against black Americans, dark skin usually determines the amount of discrimination an Indian will experience. As I watch blacks, whites, Asians, Latinos and people of faith and of no faith protesting on the streets of America, my heart aches for such an amalgamation of citizens peacefully protesting on our streets against the violence, scorn and social neglect Dalits, tribals and other low castes experience on a daily basis. I take pride in the CEOs of Microsoft and Google — both of Indian heritage [...]

RNS | India can take lessons from US in our struggle to end casteism2020-06-15T15:32:43+00:00

Fox News | Coronavirus Shows How China’s Disregard for Human Rights Threatens the World

2020-05-01T16:30:37+00:00

The question is whether we, with different philosophies, but both with feet on the ground, and having come from the people, can make a breakthrough that will serve not just China and America, but the whole world in the years ahead,” Nixon said to Chairman Mao Zedong at his Peking residence during their first-ever meeting. The idea was that as China opened to the United States, both nations not only would prosper economically, but China’s totalitarian ideology and structures would be reformed as it came in contact with Western democracy. Of course, we know what happened with the economic aspect. In a few decades, China became the world’s second-largest economy and a major military power. Now, China is using that freedom to validate the worst of its historic instincts. It may seem like a theological technicality, but there’s a world of a difference between Jesus being carted away passively to the cross than he facing it head on. In fact, everything about Jesus’ journey to the cross was active, from him “becoming obedient to death” (Phil 2:8) to him “scorning its shame.” Jesus’ victory on the cross was neither accidental nor incidental — it was deliberate and intentional. In light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic we are living through, the message of Jesus as a servant who willfully confronted death and suffering is all the more relevant to us. We can learn from his example as we minister to those who are suffering in these two ways: The prosperity that made China an economic superpower in some ways had the opposite effect on individual rights and democratic reform as it helped its leaders tighten their grip on the Chinese people. The world’s willingness to turn a blind [...]

Fox News | Coronavirus Shows How China’s Disregard for Human Rights Threatens the World2020-05-01T16:30:37+00:00

Christian Headlines | Easter Reminds Us We Can Face Suffering with Joy and Faith

2020-04-14T14:25:28+00:00

As I observe Holy Week along with billions of other believers, I have been pondering not only on how Jesus’s death and resurrection restored our relationship to God the Father, but also how they made him the conqueror of all suffering and death. Many of us came to faith in Jesus because we were moved and convicted by the gospel story as told through the innocent Son of God dying on the cross in our place for our sins. This atonement aspect of the gospel captures the sheer scope of God’s grace, sacrificial love and mercy. Yet I fear that sometimes when we consider the image of Christ on the cross we look at him as a passive scapegoat instead of a warrior who went to do war with sin, suffering and death willingly and joyfully. In John 10:18, Jesus himself said, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (NIV) Hebrews 12:2 likewise says, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” It may seem like a theological technicality, but there’s a world of a difference between Jesus being carted away passively to the cross than he facing it head on. In fact, everything about Jesus’ journey to the cross was active, from him “becoming obedient to death” (Phil 2:8) to him “scorning its shame.” Jesus’ victory on the cross was neither accidental nor incidental — it was deliberate and intentional. In light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic we [...]

Christian Headlines | Easter Reminds Us We Can Face Suffering with Joy and Faith2020-04-14T14:25:28+00:00

The Christian Post | Lent: A Season to Remember How to Suffer Well

2020-02-27T16:31:46+00:00

On Wednesday, Feb. 26 — Ash Wednesday — many members of the global church will enter the Lenten season. Lent, which dates back to the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., is a 40-day period dedicated to prayer and fasting. During this time, Christians reflect on the mission and suffering of the Messiah, leading up to his passion on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday. Lent culminates on April 9, Holy Thursday, the night Jesus shared his Last Supper with his disciples before he went to the cross. In his farewell discourse during the Last Supper, Jesus told his disciples they would suffer. He said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, ESVUK). When Jesus said “in this world you will have tribulation,” he was referring to more than just suffering because of the faith. Suffering is one of the great realities of human life. Consider the tens of thousands of people who in the past few weeks have been infected and have died because of the new coronavirus from China. Or the millions of people who suffer hunger and starvation on a daily basis in developing nations across the world. Or the victims of persecution such as the Uighur Muslims in China, a million who are imprisoned in “reeducation camps,” or the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar who have been the victims of genocide at the hands of the government. Likewise, Christians around the world continue to be persecuted and killed for their faith. Open Doors, a nonprofit that aids persecuted Christians, estimates that 260 million people in 50 countries “experience high levels of persecution.” North Korea, [...]

The Christian Post | Lent: A Season to Remember How to Suffer Well2020-02-27T16:31:46+00:00

Religion News Service | Trump or No Trump, US Evangelicals Aren’t Custodians of the World’s Gospel Witness

2020-02-27T16:24:28+00:00

When President Donald Trump touches down in India this week for a state visit, he'll find himself in a nation that is only 2.3% Christian, yet counts 28 million adherents to the faith on an Asian continent that is already home to 350 million Christians — on its way to 450 million by 2025. These figures put into perspective the recent editorial in Christianity Today that called on America's evangelical Christian voters to support Trump’s removal from office in his impeachment trial. The article by outgoing editor Mark Galli went viral and prompted a new round of handwringing over whether evangelicals in the United States should have voted for a man who doesn't appear to live up to Christian values. Evangelicals' loyalty to President Trump, the editorial alleged, will “crash down on the reputation of evangelical religion and on the world’s understanding of the gospel.” Largely missing from the conversation was the voice of those Christians from the "global south" who represent 60% of the world’s evangelical population. The assumption is that evangelical Americans are the custodians of global evangelical witness, a notion that is, plainly put, ethnocentric. Church historians have long known that the topography of the Christian religion, including evangelicalism, has shifted dramatically over the past century. While America and Europe are increasingly secular, Christianity has spread exponentially across Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and South and East Asia and is in fact thriving in many countries despite facing severe persecution and opposition. For many of us, the time American evangelicals risked endangering the witness of the gospel was the Iraq War, which was urged on us by President Bush, unlike Trump, a self-professed evangelical. At one point Bush argued — astonishingly — that his view on [...]

Religion News Service | Trump or No Trump, US Evangelicals Aren’t Custodians of the World’s Gospel Witness2020-02-27T16:24:28+00:00

The Hill | Protesting women in India are uniting Muslims, Hindus and religious minorities

2020-01-21T17:51:34+00:00

Since Dec. 15, hundreds of Muslim women have been camping at a crossroads near New Delhi known as Shaheen Bagh. They have braved the frigid winter temperatures, the coldest in more than a century, to protest a law they believe discriminates against them as a minority in Hindu-majority India. The Citizenship Amendment Act, passed on Dec. 12, grants citizenship to refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan but excludes Muslims. The law has triggered massive demonstrations across the country, many of them led by university students, but the protest in Shaheen Bagh has caught everyone’s attention because it has become a unifying rally led by women in a fragmented society. The Shaheen Bagh protest remarkably has attracted Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and other religious minorities. These women represent nearly 600 million Indian women who believe in the democratic foundations of free speech, liberty, equality and religious freedom — ideals that seem to have come under threat by the citizenship law. On Jan. 12, tens of thousands of people flooded this crossroads, and multi-faith religious services were held there in solidarity. The protest has inspired other women across India, who have started similar demonstrations in Kanpur, Allahabad and Patna. But is the government paying attention? The Shaheen Bagh protest reminds us that it is impossible to turn India’s religiously pluralistic society into a one-faith nation, which many believe is the subtle motivation behind the bill. Those protesting are fighting for the long history of India as a religiously diverse nation. The protest was initiated by a diverse group of Muslim women, from septuagenarians to young mothers cradling their children. Some of them wear hijabs; others don’t. And some are college-educated, while primary school is the highest educational attainment [...]

The Hill | Protesting women in India are uniting Muslims, Hindus and religious minorities2020-01-21T17:51:34+00:00