Fr Samuel Rayan was gazing intensely at a book that bore the image of Sree Narayana Guru. After a while he says “Kumaranasan was a dedicated disciple of Sree Narayana Guru and I am an ardent admirer of Asan and his poems. With that, he began reciting his favourite poem, Asan’s Veenapoovu, with the lines ‘Ha! pushpame, adhikathungapadathilethra Shobhichirunnithoru ranjikanakkye nee and he went on reciting the full 40 stanzas of the poem.
Fr Samuel Rayan, fondly called as ‘Rayanachan’ is a Jesuit theologian who has written more than 300 articles. He was at Kochi a few days ago to release his book Naleyilekkoru Neelkazhcha, a collection of his articles organised by OLAM.
Though his memory was sharp while narrating his child hood days, it played hide and seek when asked about the contemporary times. After giving much stress to his memory, he says. “It is about future I have talked about in most of these articles in the book.”
‘Fr Samuel Rayan’ was a name which reverberated among the Christian radical humanists during 1960’s and 70’s. His articles in Christian theology were often discussed in national seminars organised to compile opinions on what changes should be brought into the church in the wake of second Vatican council. When the voice of liberation theology started spreading its wings to other continents from its birth place, Latin America, Fr Rayan’s voice was the strongest from India. As the definition goes, Liberation theology, an interpretation of Christian faith through poors suffering, their struggle and hope, and a critique of society and the Catholic faith and Christianity through the eyes of the poor, Fr Rayan gave a human Indian face to liberation theology in the country.
Fr Rayan’s apathy towards the rigidities of Catholic church was evident in his writings. He vehemently protested against the hollowness of rituals. He wrote in his book “Rituals should always stand for humanity. Jesus always indulged in discussions and arguments concerning the rituals offered in the Church. He discussed about Sabbat, sacrifice. But every time it was his intention to break the myth and redefine it. For instance, observing Sabbat should be for the goodness of humanity and not to put shackles on them. It is not the sacrifice, offering or rituals that ‘lord’ prefers but compassion and justice.”
In another section of his book, he narrates a story told by Masao Takenaka, a Japanese Theologian.
In Seoul, one of the biggest garment factory owner sacked four women for they urged to improve the working conditions and also asked not to make going to church compulsory. The garment factory owner was one of the elder in the church. The factory has appointed a chaplain to counsel the workers.
It blatantly denied freedom of religion and advised complete surrendering and patience. The four girls raised their voice against it and submitted a memorandum with the church and the latter did not even bother to inquire the veracity of things. They were keen on listening to Billy Graham, an American Christian evangelist.
Fr Rayan asks in his book, in such a situation who will salvage the poor? If their rights were not listened to, who will pay heed to the cries of poor people, asks he.
He says, “Rice is for sharing, bread must be broken and given. Every bowl, every belly shall have its fill, to leave a single bowl unfilled is to rob history of its meaning; to grab many a bowl for myself is to empty history of God.”