To be born a Hindu in India is to enter the caste system, one of the world's longest surviving forms of social stratification. For the past 1,500 years, the caste system has followed a basic precept: All men and women are created unequal. The ranks in Hindu society come from a legend in which the main groupings, or varnas, emerge from a primordial being. From the mouth come the Brahmans—the priests and teachers. From the arms come the Kshatriyas—the rulers and soldiers. From the thighs come the Vaisyas—merchants and traders. From the feet come the Sudras—labourers. Each varna in turn contains hundreds of hereditary castes and subcastes with their own pecking orders.
A fifth group describes the people who are achuta, or untouchable. The primordial being does not claim them. Untouchables are outcasts—people considered too impure, too polluted, to rank as worthy beings. Prejudice defines their lives, particularly in the rural areas, where nearly three-quarters of India's people live. Untouchables are shunned, insulted, banned from temples and higher caste homes, made to eat and drink from separate utensils in public places, and, in extreme but not uncommon cases, are raped, burned, lynched, and gunned down.
Oppressed by wealthy land owners and denied education, many subsist at the lowest level of society.
Bible Faith Mission (BFM) is a leading Dalit-led church-planting ministry in India. The love and compassion demonstrated by BFM has seen many Dalits turn to Christ.
BFM has established more than 250 churches and worship centres in the states of Orissa, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu.
Self-help projects, including a revolving loan fund, have been established to help Dalit Christians start a small family venture, usually animal rearing, basket and mat weaving, or food vending.
This programme has been highly effective in enabling them to support their families and churches.
BFM also operates a school which provides Dalit children a life-changing opportunity for education. The school teaches in the English language, giving the children vital skills in India’s growing economy.
The highly-successful school is the only one of its kind in India, and sets standards so high that there is a demand for places from the non-Dalit population.