Father M.J. Joseph, liberation theologian and founder editor of the Dynamic Action, passed away in Thiruvalla on Monday. He was 78.
Fr. Joseph was a theologian who had combined spirituality with radical social and political action. He found spirituality in the struggles of Dalits, tribals, women, fisherfolk and in the art forms and songs of the oppressed sections of society. He advocated ‘peoples' theology' as an empowering and liberating tool for action and reflection. He was the development secretary of National Council of Churches in India in the 1970s.
Fr. Joseph believed that what the poor need was not charity bestowed on them by the State or the rich but rights to be wrested by prolonged struggles. He was among the founder editors of the Dynamic Action, a Malayalam monthly which developed into a medium that debated issues of political economy and politics of development from the perspectives of the poor and the oppressed.
Mobilisation of Dalits in a high-caste dominated Church was another defining moment in his life. The formation of the People's Movement of Faith for Liberation and representative democracy in the Central
Kerala Diocese of Church of South India brought him into direct confrontation with the vested interests, which eventually led to his expulsion from the Church.
As a Christian priest and as a fellow-traveller of the Left, Fr. Joseph repeatedly challenged both the Church and the political apparatus to keep in focus the struggles of the people. He often paid a heavy price for his uncompromising positions. As a priest ostracised by the Church for his radical views and as a leftist who was suspect in the eyes of the party leadership, Fr. Joseph had always been in the opposition. Through the long decades of his life and service he, however, was consistent in arguing that the primary task of religion and politics is to strive for a world of justice and peace.
He was a close associate of Dr. M.M. Thomas, former Nagaland Governor, and Bishop Paulose Mar Paulose who worked together and influenced the thinking process of the youth.
An avid reader, Fr. Joseph authored many books, articles and songs.
He is survived by wife Annamma Joseph, and children Asha, Shobha and Vijayan.
The funeral will be held at St. Thomas CSI Church, Thukalasserry near Thiruvalla at 3.30 p.m. on Wednesday.