INDIA

INDIA: ITS PEOPLE & ITS ISSUES

Words from India’s most famous poet, Rabindranath Tagore.

You can’t cross the sea merely by staring and staring at the water.

Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark.

Let your life lightly dance on the edges of Time like dew on the tip of a leaf.

Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.

FRIENDS OF THE POOR IN SOUTH INDIA

Helping the Poor of India to help themselves

Although India is an increasingly wealthy country, the majority of its population live in what a westerner can only call ‘squalor’.

O originally went to India on a sabbatical visit but soon became aware that many of the projects that were designed to help the poor were not functioning properly and the money was falling into the wrong hands. Ie therefore co-founded,

with my good friend Chris Brown (left) and his brother Phil Brown, a charity which seeks to serve the poorest of the poor by utilising a ‘Micro-Credit’ system. This means the donations are carefully distributed to buy the wherewithal to make a living – by goat rearing, rope making, sewing and so on - then, as the recipients labour they earn enough to care for their families and to pay back the donation. That money is then move on to help others while leaving the original recipient newly self-sufficient. During the years our charity has been operating, more than 3,000 large families have had their lives transformed.

Why not look at the charity website? Even better, donate a little?

MY VISITS TO INDIA &

HOW THE CHARITY IS DEVELOPING

"I have learnt so very much about the world from visiting India. To begin I found it an extraordinary assault on all my senses – including my sense of justice – and I returned to the UK feeling that I had understood nothing. So I returned, and slowly but surely have fallen in love with the Indian sub-continent.

I visit regularly to meet my Indian friends, especially those who are working alongside the poorest of the poor, so that I can learn how best we can be of assistance. But we have great times being invited to share the lives of the poor, to be with them in their shanty homes and to share food, fun and conversation.

 

It is really impossible to sense what India is all about unless you visit and even then it is important not simply to follow the tourist paths but to get off the beaten track and find out how such a wealthy country can still be so poor, and how poor people can be so joyful. We have so much to learn.

On a visit in 2010 i went with two purposes in mind. First, to attend a conference in Bangalore on the subject of Post-Colonial Theology – how the history of Empire still insinuates itself into our international relationships and even affects the way we think about ourselves and others. My part in the conference was to give the inaugural address and also to serve on a panel discussing recent post-colonial tendencies in ecclesiology – what vestiges of domination-behaviour are still to be found in church life and structure.

I also shared the life of the fisher folk of the east coast who struggle to maintain any semblance of acceptable standard of life. They welcomed me into their homes which were simply huts made of mud or old torn sheets and they delighted in sharing their few scraps of food – and were distressed if I should not accept it readily.

My second purpose in visiting India that year was to journey southward to explore with local project workers the plight of some of the poorest of the world’s inhabitants. Venturing deep into the blisteringly hot forests to listen to the dispossessed so-called “tribal” peoples, as they shared something of their suffering, was humbling – and their hospitality amidst their iron-age domestic circumstances was deeply moving.

After some years visiting India Chris and I realised that what would really help these very poor families would be for us to raise enough money to buy a coconut plantation for them. The generosity of family and friends allowed this dream to come true!

In some villages, local workers are bringing the women together to create co-operatives, providing the villagers with the wherewithal to work and make a living to feed themselves and their families. The work of these co-operatives is so inspiring and the villagers so hardworking and enthusiastic that many of the projects have really taken off.

My dear friend and colleague Chris Brown is an inspiration to so many of us, and along with his brother Phil we have set up a charity called the “Friends of the Poor in South India” which you can read all about above.

As a member of the Post Colonial Theology Network it seems ironic for me a White Englishman to be investing my savings so they can buy a coconut plantation in India !! But of course it actually belongs to the poor of South India now, although it's wonderful to be their guest.