- The Rajiv Gandhi Foundation has presented lifetime achievement awards to the Bishop of Seychelles, French Kitchener Chang-Him, along with ex-Minister Esme Jumeau and historian Khantilal Jivan Shah. According to the Indian foundation, the three men had contributed much to the Seychellois society.
The Indian foundation, established in 1991 in memory of the assassinated ex-Prime Minister, aims to act as "a catalyst in promoting effective, practical and sustainable programmes in areas of national development." This year's lifetime achievement awards were dedicated to Seychellois men that had been important in the development of the young nation.
The Anglican Communion, to which Bishop Chang-Him belongs, today in particular celebrated the award. Matthew Davies of the London-based 'Anglican Communion News Service' reports that Bishop Chang-Him is seen as a "role model".
Speaking during the recent 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 in England in 1962 before becoming a priest in Seychelles in 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 Anglican Church Province of Indian Ocean from 1983 to 1984 and as Archbishop of that Province from 1984 until 1995. The Province of the Indian Ocean, covering Madagascar, Mauritius, and Seychelles, was founded in 1973, and represents 120,000 Anglicans.
According to Mr Davies, "Bishop Chang-Him has been instrumental in efforts towards peace and reconciliation throughout Seychelles." In a New Year message to the people of Seychelles, the Bishop said that there was 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".
Former Minister Jumeau, on the other hand, had retired in 1998 after being national treasurer of the Seychelles People's Progressive Front (SPPF) and later holding various ministerial posts. Mr Jumeau had been remarked for his social conscience.
Finally, the prominent Seychellois historian, Mr Shah, was praised for his lifetime dedication to researching the history of the archipelago, producing a massive list of publication. Mr Shah was said to have contributed strongly to the international knowledge of the Seychelles and had plaid an important role in focusing on the islands' environmental history.
Seychelles' Minister of Land Use and Habitat, Joseph Belmont, was guest of honour at the ceremony and presented the awards on behalf of the Foundation. He described the three recipients as "role models" and "individuals who have contributed a lot to the Seychellois society," Mr Davies reports from Victoria.
The Rajiv Gandhi Foundation was established only one month after the ex-Prime Minister's assassination. Mr 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 himself was assassinated on 21 May 1991.
The Foundation was launched to "commemorate Rajiv Gandhi's vision for India". Most of its work is concentrated on the development of rural India, but the Foundation also focuses on other countries with Indian communities, such as Seychelles.
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