Bengaluru: Hundreds of people paid homage to Reverend Kuruvilla Cherukara Abraham, a noted Asian theologian and an ecumenical leader who died on June 12 in Bengaluru, southern India. he was 80.
At the funeral service held on the following day, church leaders and colleagues remembered Abraham as an outstanding pastor, preacher and writer.
Abraham (KC to friends and colleagues) spent much of his life and work on highlighting and spreading the liberation motif of the Christian gospel.
The Protestant theologian taught, mentored and guided hundred of theological and seminary students in India and abroad.
Dr. Santanu K. Patro, registrar of Serampore College (University) to which most of the Protestant and Orthodox theological colleges and seminaries in India and Sri Lanka are affiliated, said that K C Abraham was a “gift from God to theological education In India.”
Dr John Samuel, principal of the United Theological College (UTC) in Bangalore remembered him as a ‘’fearless prophet” who was known for his humility and kindness.
KC promoted liberation theology, solidarity, justice, peace, ecological concerns, inclusiveness, loving mercy and spirituality.
Ruth Manoram, a social activist, said that K C Abraham, like Jesuit Father Sebastian Kappen, was one of the proponents of Christian-Marxist dialogue in India.
Abraham was a former president of the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians (EATWOT) and director of the South Asia Theological Research Institute. He was a much sought after pastor, teacher and speaker.
He wrote, spoke and taught about the interconnectedness of theology, mission and ecology in the Church, ecumenical movement and outside of it.
Vincent Rajkumar, director of the Christian Institute for the study of Religion and Society said K C articulated a revolutionary and radical theology to the Churches in India.
According to him, K C got strength and inspiration in the idea of “power in powerlessness.”
Mar Thoma priest Reverent Cherian Thomas, director of the Ecumenical Christian Centre, said that K C played an important role in bringing “justice consciousness” into the Church and society.
Abraham, born in Kerala, was a pastor of the Church of South India (CSI). He started his ecumenical work as the youth secretary of the CSI’s Central Kerala diocese.
Later, he went on to study at the UTC, the Union Theological Seminary, and Princeton Theological Seminary in the USA, from where he earned his Ph.D.
As a visiting professor, he taught at the UTC, and many other theological schools in India and abroad, including in New Jersey, San Francisco, Pittsburg, Toronto, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
The several books, article and reflections he wrote were on Christian ethics, church and society, mission, pluralism, ecology, disability, sexuality and HIV/AIDS.
From 1982 to 1986, KC served as the director of the Bangalore-based Ecumenical Christian Centre, which he changed from a mere program center into a center for learning and social action for many, including grassroots groups and people’s movements.
He made important contributions in the area of church and society when he was a researcher at the Christian Institute for the study of Religion and Society, under the directorship of Dr M M Thomas.
Dr Abraham was a popular leader and pastor of the CSI Karnataka Central diocese’s Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Bangalore from 1972-1979. He also served the diocese as a bishop’s commissary in 1995 and a vice president in1999-2000.
As a leader of EATWOT, and as a person concerned with the rights and freedom of the poor and the marginalized people, KC had the opportunity to travel in Asia, Africa, Latin America and many first world countries to meet and interact with people working at the grassroots, and to participate in meetings and conferences on justice, peace and integrity of creation.
He also participated in a number of meetings of the World Council of Churches and the Christian Conference of Asia.
A common thread that runs through all his speeches and writing is linked to liberation, peace, justice, human rights and human dignity.
According to K C, mission of the church is not simply about evangelism or proclamation of the gospel alone, but more importantly, it was about identifying with the poor and the oppressed for their justice and dignity.
K C is survived by his wife, Dr Molly Abraham, a medical doctor, a son, Ajit, and a daughter, Liza.
After retiring from active pastoral and academic work, KC devoted much of his time assisting and supporting his wife in running Liza’s Home, a residential facility in Bangalore for young, disabled and mentally challenged women to empower them to lead a life of dignity, love and creativity.