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Rev Ajay Singh, Rev Ayub Daniel, Vijay Kumar, Bishop Bunu Samantaroy, Prita Samantaroy, Samson Ram at Lifeworks Uniting Church, Toowoomba. Photo supplied

Synod hosts Diocese of Amritsar visitors

Uniting Church member Lyndall Moore reports on the latest visit to Queensland by representatives from the Diocese of Amritsar, North India as part of a growing friendship between the two churches.

A bishop, two ministers, a social worker, a development worker and a school principal made up the Diocese of Amritsar group who visited Toowoomba, Brisbane and Maleny in July.

Members of the Dostana Group, an activity of the Mary Burnett Presbytery, coordinated the visit of Bishop Bunu Samantaroy, Rev Ayub Daniel, Rev Ajay Singh, Prita Samantaroy, Vijay Kumar and Samson Ram. Dostana is a Hindu/Urdu word meaning “deep and abiding friendship”.

The relationship originated from a chance meeting in 2004 between Rev Dr Robert Bos and the Bishop of Amritsar, Rev P K Samanatory (known as Bunu) and reciprocal visits between the diocese and South East Queensland have been occurring ever since.

Long-term financial support for a girls hostel, now in Amritsar, has been part of the relationship, and genuine friendships have evolved as people have been exposed to the work of the church and the very different cultures.

The unyielding commitment to the values of Jesus throughout the diocese (Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and part of Punjab in the far north west of India) is expressed in the ongoing struggle for justice and human rights. This includes empowering women, building awareness of the value of female children, building youth leadership, education for change, spiritual renewal, and peace building for an inclusive society. Though Christians make up a small minority of the population in this part of India, they work extensively in an interfaith context with Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists.

The tour provided a mix of “church stuff” and tourism including Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, an Indian dinner, their first visit to a beach, shopping in Queen Street Mall and a visit to the holy ground of the Gabba—making it enjoyable and memorable for all.

After a full weekend involved with meetings of The Downs Presbytery, the group visited Blue Care in Toowoomba, Grace College and the University of Queensland, activities of Wesley Mission Queensland at Chermside (including Hummingbird House), The Lakes College, and took part in services at eight congregations in Toowoomba, Highfields, the Blackall Range and Caloundra.

The visitors were billeted with church members in Toowoomba and Maleny, while Raymont Residential College made a perfect Brisbane base.

The next Dostana Group visit to the Diocese of Amritsar will occur in October 2018 and will be led by Andrew Solomon and Rev Catherine Solomon of Maleny. Interest has been shown in a 2019 visit, most likely in September/October. If you would like to find out more, please contact Rev Paul Moore on 0417 726 099.

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