As some of you may know, during my first two years at North Park University I have had multiple chances to contribute towards community development projects in Louisiana. All three trips were put together through the school’s short-term service-learning trip program, Global Partnerships. When I came back from New Orleans last spring, I felt it was time to help put together one of these student-led trips. I asked the Global Partnerships coordinator if she was looking for anyone to lead next year’s New Orleans trip. Her response?
“No, but I need someone to lead the spring break trip to India.” And, well, that’s how I wound up where I am now. With two other students, I am leading a group of sixteen North Parkers to New Delhi to partner with Truthseekers International this March.
Truthseekers is an India-based Christian organization dedicated to challenging the archaic caste system. The caste system originates from old Hindu myths that declare certain people, by nature of birth, are ranked in a hierarchy. Other people still were just “outcaste,” polluted and therefore “untouchable.” Although modern secular India has outlawed such discrimination, this last group of people who call themselves the “Dalit” are still often segregated from mainstream Indian culture, whether it be the places they live or the wells they drink from. The cultural code is so strong that the Dalits come to believe the lie that they are untouchable.
One way Truthseekers attempts to counter this cultural hegemony is through footwashing rallies. We have been invited to participate in these events because, as English speakers in post-colonial India, we will be perceived as “high caste.” By touching their feet – a sign of great respect in Hindu culture – of the Dalit, we are proving false the myth that they are untouchable. By bending over and washing their feet – a Christian symbol from when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples – we communicate to the Dalit that they are not inferior.
You can support me on this adventure. This is an exciting opportunity, but it does come with some costs, more than New Orleans at least. I have already raised over $500, but have another $2,000 to go in the next few months. If you are so inclined, donations can be made either online at npumin.com/donate or with the provided card. Your prayer is also greatly appreciated as I face the dual challenges of leading my peers abroad and trying to show God’s love to the downtrodden of India.
Thanks so much, and I plan on posting updates in the months to come.