Cleric traces footsteps of the Mahatma

2010-10-18 00:00

VISITING Pietermaritzburg to attend last week’s theologians’ conference was also a pilgrimage for one of the delegates, a minister and professor from India.

The Reverend Dr Naveen Rao, a Methodist minister who lectures at a theological college in Jabalpur in central Indi, preached on the last day of the conference. He said, “A young attorney and advocate, Mohandas Gandhi, was thrown off a train at the railway station in this city on June 7, 1893, but the one who rose from the dirt was a saint, a mahatma, who went on to shake the foundations of the British Empire.”

Rao is a Dalit, the name given to people of a lower caste in India’s now-outlawed caste system. They were previously called “untouchables”, but Gandhi coined the term “Harijan” or “Children of God” for them.

Rao said that there is still prejudice and discrimination against Dalits, especially in traditional Hinduism. Many Hindus of high caste are still opposed to caste integration, particularly to intermarriage. Historically, Dalits are regarded as impure because they did work that made them ritually impure, such as butchery and waste and rubbish removal. Many still perform these kinds of tasks.

“About 80% of Christians in India are Dalits because they are welcomed by Christianity, while they are not even allowed in Hindu temples,” Dao explained.

Rao visited both the Gandhi memorial at the station and the statue on Church Street.

“Coming here is a pilgrimage because Pietermaritzburg gave all Indians a saint,” he said.

The conference was hosted by the Ujamaa Centre for Community Development and Research in the School and Religion and Theology at UKZN and the Theologians’ Forum.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.