Encounter in Humanization: Insights for Christian-Marxist Dialogue and Cooperation
by Paulose Mar Paulose
Preface, by Bishop Yuhanon Mor Meletius
Bishop Dr. Yuhanon Mor Meletius is the Secetary of the Bishop Dr. Paulose Mar Paulose Trust.
Nelson Mandela, the legendary figure in the history of South African freedom struggle wrote about Archbishop Desmond Tutu, "here was a man who inspired an entire nation with his words and his courage, who had revived the people’s hope during the darkest of times" (Long Walk to Freedom p. 678).
These words come to mind when one begins to write about Bishop Dr. Paulose Mar Paulose. He was a unique personality and a special kind of bishop who inspired many and revived the hopes of the people. He was less concerned about the dogmas and doctrines of the church that often only helped to torture Jesus by dividing his community than about the plight of millions of people in this very world which Jesus came to liberate. He was disturbed about the institutionalization of injustice in the name of religion and God. He believed in Jesus who liberates people from oppressive forces of this world in their social, political, economic and religious manifestations.
Bishop Dr. Mar Paulose was not a member of any political party. But he was politically more active than many a party worker. He believed that human beings are basically political beings, and hence should actively participate in political life. Through the political involvement of individuals and communities a free and just society should evolve. In this process, there is no ideology or community that should be ignored or excluded. He exhorted that those who believe in God should join forces with all those who struggle for justice because liberation from bondage is a common concern of humanity irrespective of religion or ideology.
It was in this context that he entered into very realistic dialogue and active participation with the Marxists who are considered by vast sections of Christians as anti-religious. Bishop Dr. Paulose found several areas where Christianity and Marxism could cooperate for the creation of a new world order. He was critical of Christianity for preferring to keep the status quo intact and making people slaves to outdated dogmas, customs and practices that never addressed and represented the aspirations and struggles. His studies on Marxism and its critiques along with Christian theology helped him formulate this position. He found Christianity silent at several crucial historical junctures where the message of liberation of Jesus was to be put into practice. He found the institutional Christian community most often insensitive towards the agony of people.
Bishop Dr. Paulose was a student in the US at the time of American military involvement in Vietnam. Berkeley the University where he studied was a centre of protest against this and large sections of American Christians were opposed to the war. The Bishop participated in the protests against the American policy in Vietnam. This was the same time when he was influenced by the humanism of Karl Marx and the "religionless Christianity" of Bonhoeffer. He was very much fascinated by the life and work of Bonhoeffer who was imprisoned and killed by Hitler for opposing Nazism. Bishop Paulose found in Bonhoeffer’s writings a corrective for Marx’s critique of religion. That became the subject of his doctoral dissertation which is a plea for Christian-Marxist dialogue.
Bishop Dr. Paulose Mar Paulose was born on September 14, 1941, at a place called Chirayathu in the suburb of Thrissur in Kerala, as the youngest of the five children of Konikkara Antony and Kochumariam. He did his schooling in the Chaldean Syrian High School and college studies at the St. Thomas College, Thrissur. Bishop Mar Paulose did his basic theological studies at Serampore College, West Bengal and later went to Princeton Theological Seminary for higher studies. He was awarded Ph.D. for his dissertation on "A Bonhoefferian Corrective of Karl Marx’s Critique of Religion" form Berkeley Graduate Theological Union, California. He was ordained a deacon of the Chaldean Syrian Church in 1958 and in 1965 a priest in the Church. In 1968 he was elevated to the position of an episcopa (bishop).
When he came back to India after his studies in the States, he found himself in a situation where his principles were under test. Those were the days of the "Internal Emergency" imposed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Bishop Paulose who was deeply concerned about civil liberties and other fundamental rights of citizens realized that the Emergency was an attempt to crush democracy by an authoritarian regime. He took a firm stand against the Emergency. All those who craved for freedom and justice found a new friend in the Bishop. Here was a different kind of Church dignitary. He was welcomed in many places where Christian clergy had failed to reach. He was looked upon by a lot of people, in the Church and society at large, who had no voice. He became their voice. He was a good friend of the working class, exploited, oppressed and marginalized. His sudden death at the age of 57 came as a shock to all those who knew him and left a void hard to fill.
Bishop Dr. Paulose was the Chairman of the Student Christian Movement, Kerala, for two terms. He served as the President of the Indian chapter of the Christian Peace Conference and as the Chairman of the World Student Christian Federation. He traveled widely and participated in several international conferences and symposiums. He was the Secretary of the Episcopal Synod of his Church when he died.
It has been a long cherished desire of many who respected him, including the late E.M.S. Namboodiripad, the guru of Indian Communism, to see his doctoral thesis published. After the demise of the Bishop, his friends and well wishers got together to form a trust called "Bishop Dr. Paulose Mar Paulose Trust, Thrissur", to continue the work the Bishop had begun. The Chaldean Syrian Church graciously entrusted the rights of the literary property of the Bishop with the Trust. The Trust has already published a few collections of Bishop Paulose’s articles as books. Dr. Ninan Koshy, the Chairman of the Trust and a close associate of the Bishop, has done careful editorial work on the thesis for publication. He has also written the introduction to the book. The Trust is very grateful to the Christhava Sahithya Samithy, Thiruvalla for undertaking the publication of this book. We are confident that this publication will be of interest to a large number of people and will significantly contribute to Christian Marxist dialogue and cooperation.