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India’s Hidden Apartheid

Jon Lash, Guest Writer

THIS IS INDIA

In April of this year, I was provided with the incredible opportunity to visit the nation of India for six weeks. What I witnessed during my time there shocked, horrified, and propelled me to action.

A Dalit girl in Ara, Bihar. Photo by Jon Lash

India is a land of dichotomies. I saw opulence unparalleled by anything my eyes have seen thus far, sandwiched right next to some of the most abject poverty imaginable. I was wooed by the hospitality and warmth of the Indian people, only to be appalled by a newspaper article telling of yet another person murdered simply because of their socioeconomic background.

India is indeed an up-and-coming world power. This is not to be denied. With a booming economy, and the world’s second largest population–some 1.2 billion strong and growing–India is certainly a force to be reckoned with.

Traveling through Mumbai and Hyderabad, two prosperous, burgeoning cities of India, one might see a progressive, modern society. However, buried deep below the surface of this “modern society,” ripe with technological innovations and state-of-the-art commercial facilities, lies a system of government-sanctioned oppression and discrimination so merciless and so thorough–so pervasive and so “normal”–that it has become almost invisible.

Underneath this unrelenting taskmaster, some 250 to 300 million people, known as the Dalits, struggle to survive from day to day, their life constantly being threatened by a system that views them as less than animals. This is the tragedy of our modern day. This is India’s hidden apartheid.

ACTION THROUGH MUSIC

Musician and activist, Jon Lash. Photo by Priscilla Santos

I have been playing and creating music ever since I was a kid. Piano lessons, recitals, and garage bands in high school–the whole deal. However, it wasn’t until my freshman year at the University of Florida that things really began to “happen” with my music. The son of a Rabbi, and a Methodist mother, I had a pretty profound encounter with God my senior year of high school that radically transformed my life and view of the world.

Ever since then, I feel that God deposited a passion in my heart for the poor and downtrodden–the lost and the least of our modern world. Shortly after arriving at UF, I began to write songs about this passion being birthed in my soul, and to my surprise, I began getting offers to play a few small shows, which then turned into a lot of shows, which then turned into an adventure of a lifetime.

My music has taken me everywhere from churches and temples, to art galleries and playhouse openings, to bar and clubs. Different cities. Different states. Even a few international opportunities!

But even with all of these incredible opportunities, I knew that it wasn’t about me and my “musical career.” I was given a platform to match my passion–to advocate and be a “voice for the voiceless”–with my talents. Initially, I worked for two years with a non-profit organization called Speed the Light, using all proceeds from my concerts and CD sales to help build wells in Africa. Then, India invaded my life and heart, and changed me forever …

THE DALITS

What do you know about “The Dalits”?

Nothing?

Me neither,up until about three months ago. And, after traveling around the nation of India gathering story after story of merciless and systematic religious and governmental oppression, I am firmly convinced that the Dalit situation in India is THE human rights atrocity of our modern day. The only thing worse than the situation in India is the fact that the issue is almost completely unknown by the vast majority in North America. The Dalits are a group of people AT LEAST 300 MILLION strong (depending on how you categorize the various Dalit groups) that have and STILL ARE experiencing some of the MOST ATROCIOUS discrimination and subjugation in existence today!

If you want to talk about “Modern Slavery” and Human Trafficking–80 percent of  “modern slaves” today are Dalits. They are known as the “Untouchables.”

However, Indian government officials would (and do) say, “the practice of “untouchability” has been abolished in our constitution. It is now illegal, and no longer exists.” Oh how I wish this were true.

I could go on and on about the Dalit’s plight in India, sharing with you story after story, photo after photo and interview after interview that would break your heart. And I will, because God has lit a fire in my heart to do just that.

After returning from India, knowing verses like Micah 6:8, where we are called to “do justly and love mercy,” I knew that doing nothing was not an option for me. As a disciple of Jesus, I am called to follow Him, and He cared about the poor and the marginalized. Actually, in Luke 4, Jesus actually made the poor and oppressed, downtrodden and enslaved his mission. So I follow.

God has given me an area of influence with music, and I intend to use it. I have just recently re-vamped my band website to use it as a platform to raise awareness and bring a KINGDOM REVOLUTION for the Dalit people. Check it out at www.jonlash.com.

I have partnered with an indigenous, social justice group in India that brings both spiritual as well as socio-economic liberty for the Dalit people. I’m also  selling bracelets at my shows, as well as on the website. These bracelets are made by Dalit women in India who have been rescued out of sex-slavery and have formed a clothing company as a means of providing for their daily necessities. All proceeds from the bracelet sales will go right back into making a difference for the Dalits–providing much needed school fees for Dalit children to attend English-medium schools where they will be empowered and given the tools necessary to eventually break the cycle of poverty.

So that’s me- Just a normal guy, trying to learn to follow a supernatural God who loves people. Check out www.jonlash.com for more info on the Dalits and their plight, and to find out how you can “Buy a Bracelet. Free a Slave.”

Passionately Pursuing Our Servant-King.

Listen to Jon Lash’s “Becoming Who We Are”

Jon Lash is a singer/songwriter, musician, teacher and UF Alum. He will be returning to India for three weeks to meet the women responsible for making the bracelets as well as helping them develop some new products.

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2 Comments

  1. Marissa July 7, 2010

    Jon, God is so amazing in your life! He’s blessed you in so many ways because you refuse to bury your talents that will ultimately bring Him glory. You not only talk the talk of love for the least, but you exude it by putting your hands where your heart is. You’ve always struck me as one who who loves extravagantly and selflessly with not agenda in mind but to GIVE of the love you have RECEIVED! I pray that God will continue to show you crazy favor as you continue to be faithful with what He’s given you. Faithfulness…that’s one word that comes to mind when I think about you, Jon!

    As my heart is reawakened to my long-time vision of being a “voice for the voiceless” through my writing, I look up to you–my brotha from another mother! You inspire me to keep on praying and release the fear that threatens to steal my joy–fear that my big prayers will actually be answered. I’ve been praying big prayers regarding how I long to be used by God, and I am utterly convinced that He will not leave me nor forsake me as His will for me unfolds. I don’t want to make a name for myself, I just want to paint His name on others’ hearts and minds and propel their hands to serve in kind.

    Love you bro. Thanks for sharing your story of faithfulness! Oh, and one more thing: Do your bracelets come in green?

    :),

    MRA

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