unique inspiration for his new book, False Witness. He also discusses
how a trip to India changed his perspective.
did you first get your inspiration for False Witness?
At a funeral.
The deceased was David O’Malley, a good
friend and former client. His wife had asked me to give the eulogy. I talked
about David’s generosity, his big heart. He was always inviting someone to live
at his house until they could get back on their feet. He ran a used car lot and
hired people down on their luck. David believed in second chances. And he was a
character. He had this larger-than-life personality that made people laugh. He
sang in a gospel quartet. Everybody had a David O’Malley story. Heads nodded as
I shared mine.
David’s pastor followed me in the pulpit. He
spoke about a man named Thomas Kelly. The man was a scoundrel involved in
organized crime. He turned on everyone he knew. Jaws dropped and the mourners
stared in disbelief at this pastor. The man had clearly lost his mind! “You
don’t think you know Thomas Kelly, but you do,” the pastor insisted. “David
O’Malley was Thomas Kelly before he went into the witness protection
program—before he came to the Lord.”
Prior to that moment, the only people that
knew about David’s past were the government, his family, myself, and his
pastor. The men he had testified against had died in prison. His wife had
obtained the government’s permission to reveal his past. There was utter
silence as the pastor concluded with a line I will never forget. “The
government can give you a new identity,” he said. “But only Christ can change
“That would make a good book,” I thought. I hope I was right.
Your book also includes in its theme the plight of the church in India. When
did you first become familiar with India and its caste system?
I took a trip to
India with a group from my church in 2009. The culture was amazing. The cities
were alive with commerce, technology and development. This was India shining, a
new world economic giant. In the rural areas, we saw the colorful traditions of
a proud, hospitable and hard-working culture, a relaxed contrast to the
frenzied city life. But everywhere we went, we also encountered the
underpinnings of the caste system and our hearts were captured by the struggle
of the lowest castes to overcome centuries of economic and educational
discrimination, as well as social isolation. I was particularly moved by the
plight of the Dalit children, struggling to get a good education so that their
generation might rise above the oppression and gain real equality and human
The leaders of the
Christian church in India helped us understand that while India has passed many
laws guaranteeing equality for the Dalits, the fabric of society still
oppresses them at every turn. We knew that we needed to become engaged in the
human rights struggles of the lowest castes in India. It is, in the words of
one leader, the struggle for the soul of a civilization.
Q: Who are
The Dalits, formerly
called the “untouchables,” comprise nearly one quarter of India’s society, with
population estimates of 250 million people. The term Dalit means “those
who have been broken and ground down deliberately by those above them in the
social hierarchy.” Dalits live at risk of discrimination, dehumanization,
violence and enslavement through human trafficking every day. By all global
research and reports, the Dalits constitute the largest number of people
categorized as victims of modern-day slavery.
Q: You are donating all the proceeds from your book to the Dalit
Freedom Network (DFN). What is the DFN?
The Dalit Freedom
Network is a human rights, nongovernment organization that partners with the
Dalit people in India. The DFN represents a vast network of justice-minded,
modern-day abolitionists committed to bringing freedom to history’s
longest-standing oppressed people group. The DFN believes that we can end Dalit
injustices, such as human trafficking and child labor, and make slavery history
in India. Major partners include Operation Mercy India Foundation (OMIF) and
the All-India Confederation of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe
Organizations (SC-ST Confederation).
Q: What can
we do to help the DFN?
You can become
involved in many ways. First, there is the child-sponsorship program that
provides books, uniforms and a midday meal to Dalit children attending an
English-speaking school with a Christian worldview that affirms the dignity,
worth and equality of each child. The cost to sponsor a child is $28 per month.
Updates will be sent to the sponsor twice a year and photos of the children
will be provided. There are approximately 67 schools with over 10,500 children presently
in this program. Second, a micro-enterprise movement is helping the Dalits to
break free by providing micro loans and vocational training in marketable
skills. Most of these groups are organized and run by the women in the Dalit
community. American Christians can contribute to this program of Dalit
self-sufficiency as well. Third, the DFN acts as an international advocate for
Dalit rights in places like Washington, London and the U.N. Those with a desire
to be part of this global human rights initiative can contribute to the DFN
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