Posted by: thebluemusicblog | March 19, 2014

INDIA 2 – MADRAS YMCA IN CHENNAI AND THOMAS THE APOSTLE

This is the oldest YMCA building in India, the famous headquarter of Madras YMCA in Chennai. It has a beautiful facade and a not so beautiful interior, but there are plans for renovation. This building was set up in 1891.

IMG_2881Chennai was the entrance of Christianity to India, and no other than the apostle Thomas was the one to bring the gospel of the resurrected Jesus Christ to India. From 58 to 78 AD he lived and worked in India, in this specific area of India, and here, in the hills outside the city centre, was he assassinated during a time of prayer. He was stabbed from behind, but was able to run down to the valley below, where he died. The Thomas Church is built over his grave, and it was a special experience to visit both the site of assassination as well as the church where he is buried.

IMG_2891Can you believe that this land is in the middle of the big city? It is surrounded by big multinational companies, especially from the IT-industry, and between those giants of capital and richness lies a huge piece of land belonging to the YMCA in Chennai, the Madras YMCA. Here they have built an orphanage especially catering for children having lost their families in the Tsunami. Here is a school for hundreds of children, a vocational training centre, and a hostel for women, mostly young girls working in the IT-industry. I was amazed both by the good educational programmes, the fact that the children got it for free, included a meal per day, as well as by the fact that the YMCA land here is worth millions, if sold or restructured.

IMG_2879Ingunn in eager conversation with a family member of the Philip family in Chennai.

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And here one of the real highlights of my Indian journey, the meeting with Mr. K.M Philip, former President of the World Alliance of YMCAS ( 1975 -77) at his residence at Chennai. Mr. Philip was the first President of the World YMCA from Asia. He is 102 years old. He remembers very well the history of the movement during his leaderhip time in India and World Alliance. A great visionary leader of the World YMCA Movement from India. He had returned from the hospital the previous day, and still very strong and very focused. He was very motivated to meet with me, and we talked intensely for more than one hour. He was able to tell me things from his time at the helm of the World Alliance which I did not know about, and I found it highly fascinating and very, very useful for my growing understanding of what really happened to this world movement during the last 60-70 years of our history. He gave me a very strong and clear message. He underlined how important it is that the World Alliance takes leadership for the movement, and also that I should look to India for human resources and for resources generally. The Indian YMCA is rich in many ways and can play a more important and vital role than it does today. Said K.M. Philip, and I promised to tell his message to my friends, which I hereby do. I must say that I was immensely impressed and taken by his authority and strong value base. Here was a leader of integrity and moral strength, a man of 102 and still carrying a prophetic voice. I thank God for such leaders and hope that the rest of us are able to grow to his size and dimension.

IMG_2896This is from the school on the land surrounded by gigantic multinational companies. Modest, maybe, but look at the richness in happy smiles and shining eyes and youth empowerment happening straight in front of our eyes.

IMG_2892And as so often in India, the distance is not long from deep poverty to rich, colonial luxury, as demonstrated in this hotel lobby where we were taken to a celebratory lunch. the hot and humid climate did no good to my growing cold and loosing voice, so a bit of air-conditioning was warmly or coldly welcome!

IMG_2901Below you can see the memorial at the hilltop where the apostle Thomas was assassinated. We went there with the leadership of the Madras YMCA and enjoyed also the magnificent view of Chennai below the hill.

IMG_2903And here the WAY delegation with Jose as number two from the left, Ingunn to the right and me in front of the camera.

IMG_2908The rest of todays blog post is dedicated to the YMCA College of Physical Education.

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YMCA College of Physical Education was founded by Mr. Harry Crowe Buck in the year 1920. Mr. Buck was a pioneer in physical education training in India. The college stands as a hallmark for training physical education teachers, coaching the students who can teach physical education, skills and techniques of games, organizing sports competition and undergo research programmes. This college is instrumental in producing trained gym instructors, atheletic trainers, sports nutritionists and individuals specialized in sports injury management, aerobics training and martial arts. YMCA College of Physical Education is an autonomous college affiliated to the Tamil Nadu Physical Education and Sports University. It is a project of National Council of YMCAs of India. The institute is accredited by NAAC as an A grade college. It is recognized by National Council of Teacher Education and Government of Tamil Nadu. (Website)

1972543_10202973591721307_2133334706_nAnd here I met two old friends, the Principal of the College, Dr. Sheila Stephen, whom I met at a meeting of the YMCA University Coalition in Kassel, Germany a couple of years ago. She is the third person to my right. To my immediate right is Dr. R. Sweety Premkumar, Correspondent & Secretary of the College. He was the representative of the World Alliance to a commission of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance on HIV-AIDS, and I used the opportunity to thank him warmly for his fine work, which he is continuing to date.

1901341_10202973598201469_495932803_nJust on the day we arrived was 3000 students from 14 colleges around India coming together in Chennai for the State level Inter University Sports Competition, and I was given the honor of officially opening the games and saluting all the students as they were marching past the tribune. Quite a warm honor in the tropical sun!

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