The group who visited the Diocese of Calcutta before Christmas were deeply impressed by the way in which the congregations of the Diocese of Calcutta reach out to the community in which they are set. Christians are of course a minority population in India. But the Diocese has a deep commitment to working with and for the whole community — particularly those who are ‘the poorest of the poor’.
There is always a concern that a Companionship Relationship between the Diocese of St Andrews and the Diocese of Calcutta may slip into becoming a ‘donor-recipient’ relationship. If we were intending to provide support directly to their congregations, that would be fair criticism. But that is not what we hope to do. In this case we hope to support the caring and outreach work of the Diocese of Calcutta beyond its own life and in the midst of the deep poverty of India.
Dum Dum project
The project which immediately impressed us was the Dum Dum Project which is run by Cathedral Relief Services (CRS). CRS is the social action programme linked to St Paul’s Cathedral in Calcutta. It is professionally run to a very high standard.
The Dum Dum Project is set in dilapidated buildings which are surrounded by partly-built apartment buildings. Redevelopment of the city is constantly sweeping away the kind of buildings in which the poorest people of the community have lived. In their place come shiny new apartment blocks which command prices which nobody other than the newly affluent in India could afford.
The purpose of the project is to provide support for young women and their children. They help the women to acquire skills in sewing and in creating goods which can be sold. This involves helping
them to gain access to microfinance so that they can acquire sewing machines and other equipment. It also involves the provision of education and developmental support for them and
for their children. This is all about bringing them to a point where as women they are less at risk of gender violence and for the children that the risk of abuse and trafficking is substantially reduced.
Bosekati and other projects
Relatively small amounts of money go a long way in India. So expect to be able to help a number of projects in the Diocese.
Bosekati was a very memorable visit for our group. We arrived by rickshaw in a remote village after a long journey. This too was a project about education and development for the children of
the village. But it also dealt with the most basic help — Alison and I were asked to help serve a meal to the
children. It was obvious that this was probably the only substantial meal which those children
would receive during the day.
Those of us who visited the Diocese of Calcutta in December came back feeling that there is now real potential for a good relationship on a number of levels. This support for projects of the diocese is probably the most obvious. But there are others which we hope to explore: women’s issues and gender violence; working with the historic and family links which connect many people in Scotland to India; congregational twinning; exploring the history of mission in India because the first Christian missionary in Calcutta was Alexander Duff who came from Pitlochry.
I hope that you will support this Lent Appeal as generously as you have supported other appeals in the past. If you would like more information, please get in touch with me.
Donations should be sent to the Diocesan Office, The Diocese of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane, 28a Balhousie Street, Perth, PH1 5HJ — cheques should be made payable to “Diocese of St Andrews”. Gift Aid Forms are also available from the Diocesan Office
Thank you for your support