A Leader of Interfaith Movement

Dr. Mohinder Singh

While I had heard about Bishop Paulos Mar Gregorios it was in early 1985 that I came in close contact with him. Following the unfortunate riots of 1984 an inter - religious forum was floated in early 1985 to promote communal harmony through inter - faith prayer, devotion and other acts of service. I happened to be a member of the committee along with Bishop Gregorios. Later that year we travelled together to participate in the first Assembly of the World Religions in New Jersey. Because of the Bishop's high standing we the younger scholars, were a little scared of him. However, because of his wit and humor the initial fear was soon transformed into loving devotion and fond love.

The Bishop was a unique personality. Highly learned with many doctoral degrees from Indian and foreign Universities, he was modest about his scholarship. Deeply rooted in the Christian tradition, he was secular and ecumenical in his approach to people and institutions of other living faiths. Because of this progressive views some of us called him the "Red Bishop'. It was because of his initiative that a close rapport was established between the Orthodox Syrian Church of the East and Orthodox Churches in the erstwhile Soviet Union. I had the privilege of visiting Moscow as a member of the delegation led by him in 1987. While participating in the Round Table in Moscow. I discovered how much influence the Bishop wielded in the Church hierarchy. In 1991 I was surprised to find an invitation to be the non- Christian guest at the Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Canberra. It was quite some time later that I discovered that it was the Bishop who recommended my name. But he did not wish to get any credit for this, not even the customary "Thank You Note'. This all made me feel humbled.

I would also like to narrate two incidents demonstrating catholicity of his faith. I once accompanied him to the Gurdwara Bangla Sahib in New Delhi. While taking him around I told him about the Gurdwara and the history connected with it. while coming out there is a tradition that we all take Prasad and the holy water. Whenever I take non-Sikh guests with me I explain the significance of the two but do not insist that they partake the same. What surprised me was the fact that even before I could explain to him about these he had already partaken the Prasad and the holy water like a devout Sikh. A few years later he developed acute back pain. Somebody suggested that he visit Gobind Sadan to get the blessings of Baba Virsa Singh. The Bishop was quick to visit the place. Babaji advised him to start reciting the Jaap Sahib.

I was surprised to find a few months later the Bishop quoting verbatim from the Jaap Sahib at a function held to release the English translation of the text. This was his sense of devotion and belief in the Universality of faith. Our best homage to this great man of faith would be to work for the ideals and institutions that the Bishop built and nourished.

(Courtsey: AIACHE News Letter, Vol. XXXI, No. 1, February 1997)

Dr. Mohinder Singh:Director National Institute of Punjab Studies.