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Tribute to Somen Das, James Massey and Ninan Koshy

Tribute to Somen Das, James Massey and Ninan Koshy

08 May 2015

A tribute: Friday 8 May 2015

Rev. Dr Somen Das, a renowned theologian and a prolific author, died in Mumbai on the early morning of 5 May 2015. An ordained minister of the Church of North India, Das was a former Principal of Bishop’s College, Kolkata (1989-1999) and chairperson of the Student Christian Movement of India (SCMI) from 1985 to 1989. Educated in the Senate of Serampore College and at Princeton and Boston Universities, Dr Das was a committed and passionate theological educator whose commitment to theological education spanned 34 years of teaching in colleges and seminaries including Serampore College (1969-70), the United Theological College, Bangalore (1970-88) and Bishop’s College (as principal from 1989-99). He also served as visiting professor at New College, Edinburgh, Scotland; Andover Newton Theological School, USA; and Heidelberg University, Germany. From 2000, he offered his services to Serampore College as well as the North India Institute of Post-Graduate Theology Studies (NIIPGTS). A prolific author, Das wrote several books and contributed numerous articles in leading journals and books, including the recent WCC publication Asian Handbook for Theological Education and Ecumenism.

Rev. Dr Somen Das

 

Bishop’s College, Kolkata, where Das served as principal between 1989 and 1999, celebrates him in their published obituary as “a prolific author, brilliant teacher and one of the tallest theologians that the Church of North India has produced.”

The National Council of Churches in India, to which Das contributed immensely as a resource person, stated: “It is a great loss to the Church, seminaries and the ecumenical movement. We thank God for his life and contribution. His contributions will always be remembered and will provide the inspiration for continuing work in the spirit of commitment and faithful service.”

Dr Somen Das is survived by his wife June and their only son Sanjoy.

Prior to this, in March 2015, two other veteran theologians from India, Dr (Habil) James Massey and Prof. Ninan Koshy also passed away.

Massey, originally from Punjab, India, was one of the pioneers and proponents of Dalit Theology and contributed immensely to the emancipation of Dalits and particularly to extend the benefits of affirmative actions by the government of India towards the Dalit Christians. Closely associated with the ecumenical movement, Massey was from 1992 the director of the WCC Dalit Solidarity Programme under the auspices of the Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation programme of the World Council of Churches.

Dr (Habil) James Massey
Photo: WCC/Peter Williams

Dr Massey also served in important posts within Christian as well as secular organizations. He served as general secretary of the Indian Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (ISPCK) from 1985 to 1996, secretary of the Board of Theological Education of the Senate of Serampore College (BTESSC) for two terms and as chairperson of the NCCI’s Communication Unit from 1998 to 2004. He had the unique distinction of representing Christians as a member of the Minority Commission of India, a national body set up by the Indian government to safeguard and protect the interests of religious minorities in India. A prolific writer, Dr James Massey has authored or edited a number of books and numerous articles in various journals. He was the founding director of the Centre for Dalit/ Minorities Studies (CDS) which brought out a 30-volume Dalit Bible Commentary.

Like Das, Massey was an ordained minister of the Church of North India (CNI). Both were considered among the most prominent and resourceful persons of the church.

Dr Massey, who breathed his last on 2 March 2015 in Patna, India, is survived by his wife, Mrs. Kala Massey, and daughters, Jyoti, Ujwala and Kiran. The World Council of Churches prays for God’s peace and comfort to encompass the bereaved family.

Please read an obituary from the WCC on the passing of Prof. Ninan Koshy, here.