In the year 2019, ADF India allied lawyers represented some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in society. Pastor Balu Saste and his wife Bhuri, who are both visually challenged, were charged in two cases under Madhya Pradesh's anti-conversion law for allegedly trying to carry out forceful religious conversions. They were acquitted in March 2019. The vagueness of the law made it possible for it to be used as a tool for harassment.
In another case, 3 families of 18 members were boycotted by an entire village in Sukma, Chhattisgarh because they had embraced Christianity. Sadly, they were alienated even by their own family members. This was not a case of benign ostracization where the villagers refuse to interact with a family. The Christians were assaulted; their houses were damaged. ADF India allied lawyers intervened and reported the incident to the District Magistrate. Preparations were also made to petition the Chhattisgarh High Court, if required. As a result, the people of the village felt pressured to bring back the ostracized people into the village. They even offered to rebuild their houses to undo the wrong they had done.
This year, as part of our Vanishing Girls campaign, we conducted trainings to empower ASHA workers, to teach them about their rights as women. ASHAs are primary health caregivers accredited by the government in rural areas. We were also able to sensitize doctors in Rajasthan about the importance to comply with the requirements of the Prohibition of Sex Selection Act, in order to save the lives of unborn girls.
When grappling with these twin goals of life & liberty, we realized that the root cause of our problems is our lack of compassion as a society. We are devising novel ways by which we can exclude people.
The Christmas story, on the other hand, is a message of God’s compassion. The Holy Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Bryan Stevenson was an American lawyer who represented condemned persons on death row. Several of them had ended up there, primarily because of their race, poverty or lack of good legal representation. He wrote, "Ultimately, you judge the character of a society, not by how they treat the rich and the powerful and the privileged, but by how they treat the poor, the disfavoured and the disadvantaged. We all have a responsibility to create a just society.”
It’s the Bible's assurance that God’s compassion never fails. They are new every morning. The gift of his Son, Jesus Christ, is God’s act of compassion and love for this world. May we cherish that priceless gift this Christmas and try and live more compassionately.