The Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, established on 21 June 1991 to act as a catalyst in promoting effective, practical and sustainable programmes in areas of national development, presented a lifetime achievement award to the Rt Revd French Kitchener Chang-Him, Bishop of Seychelles, on Tuesday 30 December 2003.
Two other awards were given to former minister, Esme Jumeau, and historian, Khantilal Jivan Shah, at the National Conference Centre in Seychelles.
Foundation inspired by tragedy
Rajiv Gandhi was elected Prime Minister of India in 1984 after the assassination of his mother. In 1989, after serving his five-year term, he became Leader of the Opposition and was widely expected to return as Prime Minister when his election campaign was cut short and he was assassinated on 21 May 1991. The Foundation, launched to commemorate Rajiv Gandhi's vision for India, has established its presence in many of the states and union territories of India, launching numerous programmes and activities.
Chang-Him a "role model"
Seychelles' Minister of Land Use and Habitat, Mr Joseph Belmont, was guest of honour at the ceremony and presented the awards on behalf of the Foundation. He described the recipients as “role models” and “individuals who have contributed a lot to the Seychellois society”.
Speaking during the presentation ceremony, Bishop Chang-Him noted that the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, although made up of people from another religion, had chosen to award Christians among their recipients, which he said marked the Foundation's universal nature.
He thanked the organisers of the event and the award scheme on behalf of last year's and previous award recipients.
Bishop Chang-Him was ordained Deacon at Lichfield Theological College, England, in 1962 before becoming a priest in Seychelles on 9 June 1963. He was awarded a Licentiate in Theology at Trinity College, Toronto, and gained a PhD from the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies in 1998.
He served as Dean of the Province of Indian Ocean from 1983 to 1984 and as Archbishop from 1984 until 1995.
In addition to attending the Lambeth Conferences of 1988 and 1998, Bishop Chang-Him has been a member of the Anglican Consultative Council and several Primates' Meetings.
The Province of the Indian Ocean, covering Madagascar, Mauritius, and Seychelles, was founded in 1973, and represents 120,000 Anglicans.
Bishop's New Year message
Bishop Chang-Him has been instrumental in efforts towards peace and reconciliation throughout Seychelles. In a New Year message to the people of Seychelles, he said that there is still "much work in terms of fence-mending and bridge-building to be done" and urged people to "listen to one another" and "keep the lines of communication open".
The full text of Bishop Chang-Him's New Year message follows:
"It is good that we have adopted two major festivals which fall so close to each other and which have become very much part of our tradition and culture, Christmas and the New Year. Christmas has always been nationally acclaimed and celebrated as a religious festival par excellence and the New Year as a more secular, international event. Yet, the New Year, with the letters 'A D' (Anno Domini – in the year of Our Lord) after it can never escape the fact that this global, calendrical occurrence has as its raison d'être the birth, the coming of Christ, which has marked history into 'before' and 'after' His entry into this world.
"If at Christmas the emphasis was on light, peace, hope, the family, love, the New Year has more to do with plans, resolutions, a new chapter, a journey which begins or continues.
"In our greetings at this festive time, we have adopted the adjective 'merry' before Christmas and 'prosperous' before New Year. Every nation, without exception, aspires to become prosperous. In turn prosperity and nation building need to go hand in hand to ensure stability and growth.
"The general feeling as we approached the end of 2003, was that there was much work in terms of fence-mending and bridge-building to be done. Disunity among a small nation can easily spread and weaken the very fibre of that nation. The 'prosperous New Year' that we wish one another can only materialise in a climate of peace, unity and tolerance. This is a question of will in the first place. Do we wish to hear and understand what the other person or group is saying, and why what is said is being said?
"Unless there is a change of heart and a sincere desire to bridge existing gaps and remove labels that have crystallised our differences instead of challenging our viewpoints, any national motto for the New Year that seeks to inspire or unify the nation in its efforts will only remain noble but empty slogans.
"There are only two ways ahead, either we listen to one another and keep the lines of communication open or we go our separate ways and become contestants and non-prosperous.
"May God bless, heal and continue to guide our nation and our world during this coming year."
Article by Matthew Davies