On the morning of 10 February, Paul Schneiss, the former Chair and long-time Honorary Chair of the German East Asia Mission (DOAM), passed away after a serious illness at the age of 88.
With his passing, the DOAM has lost an extremely committed and capable pioneer and co-worker, a trustworthy friend and responsible campaigner, an accomplished expert on the people and history of East Asia and a resolute fighter for justice and peace.
Paul Schneiss was born in China and later grew up in Mühlhausen/Enz. After a first short phase as a missionary of the Liebenzeller Mission in Japan, he was soon working at the DOAM. He became its Executive Secretary in 1968 (until 1975) and, after studying theology in Heidelberg, was the first East Asia Liaison Secretary at the Ev. Missionswerk in Südwestdeutschland (EMS, now Ev. Mission in Solidarity), which was founded in 1972. From 1975 to 1984 he and his wife Kiyoko worked as ecumenical co-workers of the EMS with the United Church of Christ in Japan, the Kyodan. He also assisted in the establishment of the Tomisaka Christian Center in Tokyo from the very beginning. From Japan, he consistently supported the democratic movement in South Korea during the military dictatorship, took great risks upon himself during this time and was subsequently declared persona non grata by the South Korean government in 1977. In recent years, he was commended on many occasions for this commitment. It was again the South Korean government that awarded him the Order of Civil Merit Medal just a few weeks ago. This is equivalent to the German Federal Cross of Merit.
Since his return to Germany in 1984 to serve as a pastor in the Protestant Church in Baden, he continued his voluntary work with the DOAM, becoming its chair for almost 20 years in 1991 and then its honorary chair in 2010.
It would certainly go beyond the scope of this obituary to describe the active life of Paul Schneiss up to a ripe old age, to list his many contributions, merits, even uncomfortable reminders, his great commitment to the DOAM and to relations with East Asia. To use the daily texts of the Moravian Watchwords for the day of his death: With an admirable, if sometimes frightening, zeal, he seriously accepted that “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.” (Luke 12:48)
Nevertheless, a few things should be expressly mentioned: First of all, his many personal contacts with people in East Asia and in Germany, which he and his wife cultivated and which greatly enriched the DOAM, were very noticeable, for example, at DOAM meetings and events, birthdays and cases of illness or death. This is also reflected in the website www.doam.org which he started to develop at the age of 71 through his passionate interest in everything digital. He meticulously expanded it into an archive and was even working on it to fill in gaps last summer. In a way, it is a virtual memory and also his legacy to the DOAM and all those interested in the topic. We will use it and continue to add to it with enormous gratitude.
Finally, special mention must be made of his commitment to the marginalised in East Asia, e.g. to the victims of sexualised violence, the so-called "comfort women". In addition, he long played an active and leading role in the working group Sinti, Roma and Churches in Baden-Württemberg. He regularly took part in commemorative events of the Sinti together with his wife for as long as he could and stood up for those affected by discrimination, often accepting to travel long distances to attend them.
We will sorely miss Paul Schneiss, but we know that he is safe with God.
Due to the many years of close contact with him, we will keep him in grateful memory and do our utmost to further the work of the DOAM.
Our thoughts are also with his wife Kiyoko and his family,
on behalf of the Executive Board of the German East Asia Mission