12th February is the feast of Charlie Andrews, the Christian missionary and close friend of Mahatma Gandhi. Viewed by some scholars as the alter-ego of the Mahatma, C F Andrews went on to do things in Fiji and Caribbean which Gandhi himself could not do physically. In Richard Attenborough’s “Gandhi” there is a scene in which when CF Andrews comes to bid goodbye, Gandhi says-..(paraphrased) –Between us there are no goodbyes. You will always be with me in my heart.
He was an educator and participant in the campaign for Indian independence, and became a close friend and associate of Mahatma Gandhi. He was instrumental in convincing Gandhi to return to India from South Africa, where Gandhi had been a leading light in its Indian civil rights struggle. C. F. Andrews was affectionately dubbed Christ’s Faithful Apostle by Gandhi, based on his initials [C.F.A.] For Andrews’s contributions to the Indian Independence Movement Gandhi and his students at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi named him Deenabandhu, or “Friend of the Poor”.(Wikipedia)
This week we spent some time as Diaspora living in North Africa recalling the formative experiences of Gandhi as a leader of Diaspora in South Africa. Before Gandhi was famously thrown out of the first class compartment in Pietermaritzburg he had argued with the ticket collector that he was the only coloured lawyer in South Africa. Many of Gandhi’s formative experiences as a fighter for Civil Rights for Indian Diaspora in South Africa can well be seen as a dress rehearsal for the struggles he made in India. The Transvaal March was a prelude to the Dandi March.
SIMON OF CYRENE
I remember the priest at the Anglican church of Medina-Father Vasihar once tell us that a man who was from present day Libya was told to help carry the cross when Jesus was being crucified. This is told in Mark Chapter 15, verse 21. Cyrene is the North African Greek time city which is present day Eastern Libya, and is known as Shahat. The Green mountains stretch into the blue Mediterranean and an afternoon walk through the Greek city ruins makes for many stories to come alive. The Indian school in Tripoli has some students who wrote an essay on their impressions on Gandhi, how the diasporic working people are connected to the Atlantic, which has workers (slaves and indentured workers) on the lands bordering the Atlantic. Gandhi returned from South Africa to India, but his message has been followed by other people who have organized for civil rights in the Atlantic region-most famously influencing Martin Luther King (MLK).
Through these discussions on the experiences of Diaspora and famous civil rights organizers like Gandhiji and their influence by Christian missionaries like Charlie Andrews (CFA) we see things in a historical and social framework. This is part of a project of “Tripoli Reading Group” to engage our present day contexts.
Other blogs of interest
-Father Mintoff of Hal-Far , Malta , a Franciscian Order Monk and organizer for immigrants and refugees is inspired by the teachings
OF LETTERS AND PRAYERS
If we do not want the English in India we must pay the price. Tolstoy indicates it.
‘Do not resist evil, but also do not yourselves participate in evil–in the violent deeds of the administration of the law courts, the collection of taxes and, what is more important, of the soldiers, and no one in the world will enslave you’, passionately declares the sage of Yasnaya Polyana.
[19th November, 1909] M. K. GANDHI