João Dias de Araújo, a leading theologian in the Presbyterian Church of Brazil, died on February 9, 2014, at the age of 83. He was a 1967 graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, earning a Master of Theology degree.
The son of a Presbyterian minister, Dias de Araújo was a prominent Protestant church leader in Brazil and an outspoken advocate of human rights and the alleviation of poverty and economic inequality. His concerns for social justice, expressed in his writing and teaching, led to his being imprisoned for a time by the military regime in 1964.
Dias de Araújo attended the Presbyterian Seminary in Campinas São Paulo, and was a pastor of Itacira Presbyterian Church in Bahia state in the 1950s. In 1960 he was called to be professor of systematic theology and Christian ethics at the Presbyterian Seminary of the North in Recife, where he later became dean. As a scholar, he published many articles, including the first article on the Dead Sea Scrolls to be published in Portuguese.
As a representative of the Theological Education Fund, he traveled widely in developing countries helping to promote local theological education initiatives. An ecumenist, he served on committees of the World Council of Churches, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the Latin American Council of Churches, and the National Council of Christian Churches of Brazil. He was one of the founders of the United Presbyterian Church of Brazil.
João Dias de Araújo wrote several books, including Inquisition without Burnings: Twenty Years of History of the Presbyterian Church of Brazil, 1954–1974 and Being Christian Today. He was also a poet and a hymn writer who is perhaps best remembered in the Christian community in Brazil for his hymn “What am I doing if I am a Christian,” composed during the social struggles in Brazil in the 1960s. A hymn about the need to speak out against injustice, has been widely adopted in Brazilian hymnals of many Protestant churches.