Charles Freer Andrews (1871 – 1940) was an English priest, educator and Indian freedom fighter who is best known as an associate of Mahatma Gandhi. Andrews greatly admired the philosophy of the young Mohandas Gandhi and was instrumental in convincing him to return to India from South Africa, where Gandhi was a leading light in the Indian civil rights struggle there. He was affectionately known as Christ's Faithful Apostle, and also, for his contributions to the Indian Independence Movement the Mahatma and his students at St. Stephen's College, Delhi named him, Deenabandhu, or 'Friend of the Poor'.
Andrews had been involved in the Christian Social Union since college, and was interested in exploring the relationship between a commitment to the gospel and a commitment to justice, through which he was attracted to struggles for justice throughout the British Empire, especially in India.
In 1904 he joined the Cambridge Brotherhood in Delhi and arrived there to teach philosophy at St. Stephen's College, where he famously grew close to many of his Indian colleagues and students. Increasingly dismayed by the racist behavior and treatment of Indians by British officials and civilians, he supported Indian political aspirations, and soon became involved in the activities of the Indian National Congress.
Well known for his persuasive ways, intellect and keen sense of moral firmness, he was asked by senior Indian political leader Gopal Krishna Gokhale to visit South Africa and help the Indian community there resolve their political disputes with the Government. He met there a young Gujarati lawyer, Mohandas Gandhi who was attempting to organize the Natal Indian Congress and the Indian community to protest the racial discrimination and police legislation that infringed upon their civil liberties.
Andrews was deeply impressed with Gandhi's knowledge of Christian values, and his espousal of the concept of ahimsa, non-violence - something that Gandhi mixed with inspiration from elements of Christian anarchism. He helped Gandhi organize an Ashram in Natal and publish his famous magazine, The Indian Opinion.
Following the advice of several Indian Congress leaders and, significantly, that of Principal S K Rudra of St. Stephen's College, Andrews was instrumental in persuading Gandhi to return to India with him in 1915.
When news reached India of the mistreatment of Indian indentured labourers in Fiji, the Indian Government, in September 1915, sent Andrews and W.W. Pearson to make inquiries. The two visited numerous plantations and interviewed indentured labourers, overseers and Government officials and on their return to India also interviewed returned labourers. In their report, Andrews and Pearson highlighted the ills of the indenture system which led to a stop of further transportation of Indian labour to the British colonies.
Andrews made a second visit to Fiji in 1917 and although reported on some improvements, was still appalled at the moral degradation of the indentured labourers. He called for an immediate end to indenture and the system of Indian indentured labour was formally abolished in 1920.
About this time, Gandhi reasoned to Andrews that it was probably best for sympathetic Britons like himself to leave the freedom struggle to Indians. So, from 1935 onwards, Andrews began to spend more time back in Britain, teaching young people all over the country about Christ's call to radical discipleship. Gandhi's affectionate nickname for Andrews was Christ's Faithful Apostle, based on the initials of his name, "C.F.A". He was widely known as Gandhi's closest friend and was perhaps the only major figure to address Gandhi by his first name, Mohan.
Charlie Andrews died on April 5, 1940 during a visit to Calcutta, and is buried there. He is widely commemorated and respected in India, and was a major character portrayed by British actor Ian Charleson in the 1982 film Gandhi by Richard Attenborough.
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written by James Kiefer
Gracious God, you called Charles Freer Andrews to empty himself, after the example of our Savior, so that he might proclaim your salvation to the peoples of India and the Pacific Islands: By your Holy Spirit inspire us with like zeal to bring together people of every race and class, that there may be one Body and one Spirit in Jesus Christ, our Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.