Lal Salaam for Church
by B S Harishankar on 05 Apr 2019 16 Comments

Former CPI(M) general secretary and ideologue, Prakash Karat, said in 2012 that Christianity and communism shared many similarities. He quoted Fidel Castro who told the Church, in 1971, that Communism and Christianity had 10,000 times more in common than Christianity and Capitalism. (Comrade Karat gives red salute to Christianity, The New Indian Express, February 8, 2012) Prakash Karat was not making a popular statement, but adhering to the global stand pursued by communism. Fidel Castro in, ‘My Life: A Spoken Autobiography’, observed that Christianity exhibited “a group of very humane precepts” which gave the world “ethical values” and a “sense of social justice”. He also articulated that if people call him Christian, not from the standpoint of religion but from the standpoint of social vision, he would declare that he is a Christian.


CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury recalled his long intimacy with church associations and dwelt on the parallels between Christianity and Marxism, making references to liberation theology and acknowledging the Church’s role in his intellectual growth as a young man in Hyderabad (Yechury draws from religion to sell Marx, The Telegraph, May 24, 2015).


The alliance between Communism and the Church has a global history. Prof. Louis Dupré wrote in the late 1960s that positive cooperation between Communism and the Church does seems to have become a distinct possibility since the dialogue already exists. Four Anglican clergymen, Robert Cummings, Conrad Noel, Hewlett Johnson and Alan Ecclestone saw a philosophical link between Christianity and Marxism. For them, Marxism not only constituted a strategy to achieve political and economic change, but also a mechanism to fulfill the foundation of the Kingdom of God on earth. Raphael Samuel in his study of British Marxist historians, from 1880 to 1980, describes the commitment of Communists to ‘missionary’ work and narrates how Communism became a ‘crusading order,’ and  put forward a complete scheme of social salvation.


Thomas (Tom) Bottomore has recently exhibited about the bridges built between churches and communism, and ongoing dialogues between the two institutions. Leading Communists such as Roger Garaudy in France and James Klugmann in Britain are active in promoting this new alliance. In the Christian-Marxist dialogue, prominent participants from the Marxist side include R. Garaudy, V. Gardavsky, M. Machovec and E. Bloch. Christian theologians include H. Hromadka, A. Dumas, G. Girardi, K. Rahner, J. Bentley and J.M. Gonzalez-Ruiz.


The Paulus-Geselleschaft (Society of Paul) founded by Bavarian priest Erich Kellner was a major vehicle for Marxist-Christian dialogue in Europe. It sponsored a number of international symposia during the 1960s in the Federal Republic of Germany and Austria, bringing together Marxist and Christian thinkers. Gennady Zyuganov, chairman, Russia’s Communist Party, wrote in 2012 in his party’s first lengthy document on religion, that it is a holy duty of Communists and the Orthodox Church to unite, since both institutions shared common goals and enemies. A society which once bowed before portraits of Vladimir Lenin and Communist leaders now pays homage to the Russian Orthodox Church and its icons. In Soviet times, if any criticism of the Communist Party was considered blasphemy, currently criticizing the Orthodox church is  impiety. (The Church has replaced the Communist Party, The Moscow Times, Sep.17, 2012)


Rather than with Papacy and the Vatican, Communism is much closer to the World Council of Churches (WCC) which includes most of the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Communion, few old Catholic churches, numerous Protestant churches and some evangelical Protestant churches. The WCC arose out of the ecumenical movement in 1948 and is based at Geneva in Switzerland. 


Liberation theology which arose in Latin America is a bridge between WCC and Communism. Liberation theology is a synthesis of Christian theology and Marxism which speaks for the political liberation of oppressed people. It was marshaled by Latin American theologians such as Gustavo Gutiérrez of Peru, Leonardo Boff of Brazil, Juan Luis Segundo of Uruguay, and Jon Sobrino of Spain. Theologies of liberation have developed globally such as Black theology in the United States and South Africa, Palestinian liberation theology and Dalit theology in India. The WCC refuses to speak out against Marxist aggression in communist-oppressed countries. Bishop Laszlo Tokes who led the Romanian revolt that toppled its communist government in 1989 said that the WCC was not interested in the Church’s fight for freedom.


The KGB memo confirms that its agents supported Emilio Castro as WCC general secretary in 1985, as a candidate acceptable to them. An eminent liberation theologian from Uruguay, Castro addressed the guests in 1989 at a reception in the Kremlin as ‘comrades’ and remarked that Karl Marx “was dreaming out of the same biblical tradition from which we (WCC and Communists)  come… In that common dream we hope that between us we will have many steps to take in common” (Quoted from One World, Oct. 1989; for more see


The Mitrokhin Archives reveal the penetration and influence wielded by the KGB over the WCC. In the early 1990s, a parliamentary commission led by politician and Orthodox priest Gleb Yakunin published KGB documents proving that top Orthodox hierarchs, including future Patriarch Kirill, were KBG informers. The Orthodox Church has been a prominent member of WCC.


Joseph A. Harris, a senior editor with Reader’s Digest’s European Bureau in Paris, charged in 1993 that the WCC in order to accommodate radical anti-Western and Third World pressure groups, has drifted towards ‘secular ecumenism’. Earnest W. Lefever, founding president of the Ethics and Public Policy Centre in Washington, observes that this marriage of religion and revolutionary politics is basically Marxist.


Father Gleb Yakunin, a bold Russian Orthodox priest who spent years in Soviet prisons, labour camps and exile, said the WCC was silent and failed to defend Christians in communist camps in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Father Yakunin said WCC’s left-radical activities helped the Soviet bloc to spread communist ideology in Africa, North and South America and the Far East.


Marxist ideologue and former chief minister of Kerala, EMS Namboothiripad, wrote in 1993 about the prospects of liberation theology in India. He hoped that the liberation theology born in Latin American countries was coming to India and specifically to Kerala. Four major WCC theologians in Kerala, M.M. Thomas, former governor of Nagaland, Bishop Paulose Mar Paulose of Chaldean Syrian Church in Kerala, theologians Ninan Koshy and Father Sebastian Kappen argued vehemently for Christian-Marxist dialogue and cooperation.


The WCC maintains considerable influence on the CPI( M) in selecting candidates for the Lok Sabha and Kerala State Legislative Assembly elections. Dr. Ninan Koshy, CPI(M) candidate from Mavelikara constituency in the 1999 Lok Sabha elections, was also former director of the Churches Commission on International Affairs of the WCC from 1974 to 1991. He was also a former general secretary of the Student Christian Movement of India and a former director of the Ecumenical Christian Centre in Bangalore. Current CPI(M) legislative members from south central Kerala are affiliated with church denominations in WCC.


The Spice Route project by the left government in Kerala seeks to establish the historicity of Apostle Thomas in India. The dubious archaeological site Pattanam, excavated by KCHR, has drawn considerable criticism from archaeologists and historians. When KCHR organized a lecture on the topic, ‘History of Kerala Christianity: Documents, Monuments and Methodological Challenges’, Ninan Koshy shared the dais with KCHR chairman K.N. Panikkar, Gabriel Mar Gregorios, and P.J. Cherian (The Hindu, Feb.12, 2008). This shows the interest and involvement of WCC in the Spice Route project of the left government, which has sparked off a huge controversy.


Rev. Dr Pius Malekandathil, a Professor of history at JNU, in his article ‘Debate on the Apostolate of St. Thomas in Kerala: A Response,’ upholds the substantiating position of left historians vindicating Spice Route and Pattanam, and contextualizing Apostle Thomas. Dr NM Mathew, life member of the left sponsored KCHR, and its Spice Route-Pattanam project is also official  historian of the Malankara Marthoma Church in WCC. The heritage project of KCHR is thus considerably influenced by the guidelines of WCC.


Regarding their approach towards Indian culture, the WCC and communists have exhibited dogmatic homogeneity. Alexander Bratersky reported in 2011 that the relationship between Bhagavad Gita followers and Orthodox Church in Russia has been tense for a long period. The Orthodox Church complained that the ISKCON seeks to lure Russians away from traditional beliefs. It was accused in Tomsk media that the Orthodox Church was behind the attempt to ban the Gita in Russia (Krishna Holy Book Faces Ban in Tomsk, The Moscow Times, Nov. 28, 2011). The Russian Orthodox Church is a member of the WCC since 1961. In India, the Communists and WCC were identical in maintaining an ideological silence on the ban of Gita in Russia.


Similar to communism, the WCC still officially contends that the Aryan tribes invaded India around 1500 BC and introduced the Vedic religion, which was the foundation of Brahminism and the caste system, in the context of subalterns. It corroborates and defends the Aryan invasion theory of left historians such as R.S. Sharma, D.N. Jha and Romila Thapar.


Prof. T.K. Oommen of JNU, another propagandist of Aryan invasion, was former Vice Chair, Church and Society, WCC, Geneva. The Seventh assembly of WCC at Canberra in 1991 argued that archaeological and anthropological evidence links tribal people who were victims of Aryan invasion. In 1997, at WCC conference at Geneva, Indian theologian James Massey contended that Dalits were invaded and suppressed by Aryans whose literature and philosophy were used to subdue them. This ideological lens towards India helps the WCC guide radical Dalit groups.


The International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) formed in 2000, with its centre at Copenhagen, guides Dalit groups in India and has WCC as one of its chief consultants along with other evangelical outfits such as National Council of Churches in India. The Global Ecumenical Conference on ‘Justice for Dalits’ was held in March 2009 at Bangkok. The WCC contends that ‘the churches in India have taken the issue of justice for Dalits as a core priority for their ongoing mission’.


On September 9, 2009, the WCC issued a statement on caste-based discrimination in India. It stated that every hour two Dalits are assaulted; every day three Dalit women are raped, two Dalits are murdered, two Dalit homes are torched, and in the year 2000, 25,455 crimes were committed against the Dalits.



But the WCC repress and censor from global community numerous incidents of attack on Dalits in Indian churches. At Eraiyur in Villupuram district, Tamil Nadu, churchmen armed with weapons attacked Dalit homes and mutilated nearly 80 houses (Frontline, Vol. 25, Issue 08, April 12-25, 2008). The BBC reported in 2010 that in the Catholic church cemetery at Trichy in Tamil Nadu, Dalits are discriminately allocated detached space for burial on one side of the wall, while upper-caste converts are buried on the other side (BBC, Sep. 14, 2010).


The Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front in April 2018 alleged that the practice of caste can be found in the formation of parishes, denial of share for Dalit Christians in the administration of the parish, construction of separate chapels for Dalits and orthodox Christians, discrimination in facilities provided on caste considerations, denial of employment opportunities and priesthood. (The Hindu, April 10, 2018) A delegation of 22 persons from the Dalit Christian Liberation Movement and Viduthalai Tamil Puligal Katchi (a collective of human rights activists) submitted a complaint to the UN Information Centre for India and Bhutan, in Delhi.


At Harobele, Karnataka, more than hundred scheduled castes were forced to spend a night in the fields to hide from a rampaging mob of Catholics. Four SC priests from Karnataka complained to Pope Francis that the Indian Catholic church was casteist, but his response was disappointing. (The Hindustan Times, August 2, 2015) Banners inviting members of the Catholic Reddy Association (CRA) in Andhra to the tercentenary celebrations of Global Catholic Reddy families infuriated Dalits who were denied such celebrations by the church. (The Times of India, Jan.7, 2015)


The ideological collaboration of WCC and Indian left is observed in elections, crucial policy making and constructing church history. It has to be read in this context that the statement given by Cardinal Kurt Koch, the top Roman Catholic official for inter-church relations, that the global fall of Communism is a setback for the church. (End of communism not all good for Christianity: Vatican, Reuters, Nov. 18, 2014) 

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