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Shiva, a Nepalese colleague – Restore Dignity for the Dalits

Written by: Clara Chiu (Head of Partnership Development)

Whenever I read Philippians 2 about Christ’s incarnation and dwelling among us in the likeness of men, I am moved by His love and sacrifice. He was willing to lay down His nobility and power, taking the form of a servant to be a human. Such sacrifice is love. Abandoning one’s birthright for others is easier said than done.

Shiva, a colleague of our Nepalese partner, Samari Utthan Sewa (SUS)*, followed Christ in a way that he willingly put down his esteemed identity to serve those marginalised.

Nepal borrows India’s caste system, which divides people into four main categories, each with its subcastes. The castes are hereditary, and their occupations and intercaste marriage are forbidden. The hierarchy of castes and their occupations are also reflected in Nepalese family names. The caste system impacts Nepalis’ life in aspects like marriage, occupation and social life. However, a group of Nepalis are excluded from the four castes, namely Dalits, the pariah, also known as the untouchable. They are at the lowest stratum and are discriminated against, who could only do the ‘filthiest’ work.

In 1990, a law was passed making it illegal to discriminate against other castes, including Dalits. And in 2011, the Caste-Based Discrimination and Untouchability (Offence and Punishment) Act was adopted to prohibit any discrimination on the basis of caste in any public or private place. Unfortunately, most offenders are not punished, and the discrimination persists.

Shiva belongs to Brahmin, the highest caste, but he believes everyone is born equal. The Lord he knows adores everyone, and people have no difference in status in the Lord. Because of this belief, he worked in an NGO promoting Nepalese Dalits’ human rights upon his graduation. He was then awarded a scholarship and came to Hong Kong alone to study a human right related programme. After that, he was drawn to SUS’s mission and wanted to serve with them, but SUS had no vacancy. So, Shiva continued advocating for Dalits’ rights. He eventually joined SUS in 2018 to help Dalits who encounter discrimination and advocate for the rights of the vulnerable. He hoped to break the people-separating caste system to guard the dignity that everyone deserves.

However, Shiva’s family did not appreciate his kindness to others, and they disapproved of Shiva’s partnership with Dalits and advocacy for their benefit. In addition to his family’s faith in Hinduism and strong respect for the caste system, Shiva’s work with the untouchable led to his exclusion from every family matter. Although his parents have some assets that Shiva is legitimate to share equally with his two brothers, his parents refused to share with him. They did not treat him as a family member because he fought for the rights of Dalits and other vulnerable groups.

His background and education allow him to live a life many Nepalese dreams of. Yet, he chose to follow Christ – becoming flesh, walking with marginalised groups known as ‘sinners’ in society and being despised.

Thankfully, Shiva did not relinquish God’s calling because of others’ abandonment. In December 2022, CEDAR Fund’s colleagues visited SUS and their beneficiaries in Nepal and filmed Shiva’s sharing. He wished CEDAR Fund’s supporters would listen and respond to his call. Please watch his interview below (Chinese subtitle only).

Would you support our partners to help the poor so they can live with dignity like us?

You may learn more about the ministry through last year’s ‘Restore Dignity for the Poor’ report.

*SUS is a Christian community development organisation established by a group of Dalit youths in 2008. Since its establishment, SUS has been dedicated to helping Dalits, the impoverished, and other marginalised groups in society, caring for their basic needs and improving their livelihood. SUS also advocates for Dalits’ and women’s rights.

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