“Benjamin was a fellow ecumenist who was strongly engaged in the building of pathways of justice and dignity for people in the margins and who were submerged by discrimination and prejudice. May his contributions to the ecumenical fellowship be always remembered”, said Rev. Dr Odair Pedroso Mateus, WCC deputy general secretary, on behalf of Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, WCC acting general secretary, and currently on vacation.
Benjamin was the 11th child of Rev. Job Benjamin and Muthabaranam Benjamin, born in a village in the state of Tamil Nadu. He did schooling wherever his parents moved for mission work. After his university, at which he studied cultural history of India and politics, he began his work in the field of cottage industries, researching through field studies. He worked as a programme secretary for the Student Christian Movement in India.
He joined the Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society and the Ecumenical Christian Centre, leaving Bangalore to move to Tirupattur, where he developed his work among the native people. He founded and directed the Centre for Rural Health and Social Education.
“His knowledge and insights made him an important resource person at conferences and seminars at local, national, and international levels”, noted William Stanley, General Secretary, Oikotree Global Forum. “A large portion of his work was grassroots and justice-oriented. Benjamin combined intellectualism with activism”, added Stanley.
He emerged as a development consultant at the national and global levels, taking his creative skills and energies to make a better world for those who were poor and disempowered.
He also contributed significantly to the ecumenical movement, including the World Council of Churches, Christian Conference of Asia, National Council of Churches in India, and YMCAs of India. He wrote frequently in journals, and other publications through which he influenced social thinking, questions of development, human rights, inter-cultural studies, labour issues, and youth work.
In recognition of his life and work, he was awarded the Doctor of Divinity (Honoris Causa) by the Academy of Ecumenical Indian Theology and Church Administration, Chennai, India in 2002 for distinguished contribution to the life and witness of the Church in Society. He also received the Doctor of Honours (Social Work) from the Open International University for Complementary Medicines, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 2007 for excellence in Social Development and Community Empowerment.
When he chose a place to work, he would say: “I want to learn what the people know and share with them. Together we find ways to transform situations of oppression and disadvantage.”