Oosterbeek, The Netherlands
Every four years, ever since 1983, Fr Francis Baartmans mhm and the Benares Foundation organise an 'India Day'. The 8th edition of this event took place on June 18th in St Jozefhuis, Oosterbeek and brought together some 125 participants, most of whom have a personal connection through voluntary service with the work of Fr Francis among the Dalits in the Hindu Holy City of Varanasi, India, on the banks of the Ganges.
Apart from providing an opportunity for informal encounter the India Day also serves as a platform for evaluation of the various projects set up in Varanasi with the help of finance and – often young – volunteers who enthusiastically support the work of Fr Francis.
The programme of the day included a presentation by Pierre Satijn, a volunteer of six years' standing, who explained the intricacies of founding a school in Varanasi.
Subsequently Pierre and Fr Francis together answered questions and updated the audience on recent developments.
'Broken Still One', a fascinating documentary film on the work of Fr Francis was screened and his recent book on his work among the Dalits of Nagwa, 'The Mysterious Trail of the Tamarind', was presented.
And there was ample space for a variety of activities mostly for the very young such as drawing or colouring mandala's. Tables with a multiplicity of items for sale were dotted along the corridors of St Jozefhuis.
Martien van Leeuwen mhm, the Dutch Regional, took to the floor, to sketch a portrait of the Founder of the Mill Hill Missionaries, Cardinal Herbert Vaughan, his passion for mission expressed in his motto 'Amare et Servire' (to Love and to Serve) and the development of the Mill Hill Missionary Society. Stressing the essential role of the cluster of local supporters, short term volunteers and sympathisers he hit upon the image of a multicoulored bouquet of flowers – each with its own elegant shape, beauty and aroma. Fr Francis Baartmans was singled out as a shining example of missionary endeavour.
Beautiful musical interludes and a colourful Indian 'Kathak' dance added to the festive character of this day.
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