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Charles Freer Andrews

The bust of C.F.Andrews over his grave, in the Calcutta Christian cemetery

Charles Freer Andrews (12 February 1871 – 5 April 1940) was a Church of England priest. A Christian missionary, educator and social reformer in India, he became a close friend of Mahatma Gandhi and identified with the cause of India's independence. He was instrumental in convincing Gandhi to return to India from South Africa, where Gandhi had been a leading light in the Indian civil rights struggle.

C. F. Andrews was affectionately dubbed Christ's Faithful Apostle by Gandhi, based on his initials, C.F.A. For his contributions to the Indian Independence Movement Gandhi and his students at St. Stephen's College, Delhi, named him Deenabandhu, or "Friend of the Poor".


  • Early life 1
  • In India 2
  • With Gandhi in South Africa 3
  • Tagore and Sree Narayana Guru 4
  • In Fiji 5
  • Later life 6
  • Commemoration 7
  • Publications 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12

Early life

Charles Freer Andrews was born on 12 February 1871 at 14 Brunel Terrace, Newcastle upon Tyne, England; his father was a minister in the Catholic Apostolic Church in Birmingham. The family had suffered financial misfortune because of the duplicity of a friend, and had to work hard to make ends meet. Andrews was a pupil at King Edward's School, Birmingham, and afterwards read Classics at Pembroke College, Cambridge.[1] During this period he moved away from his family's church and was accepted for ordination in the Church of England.

In 1896 Andrews became a deacon, and took over the Pembroke College Mission in south London. A year later he was made priest, and became Vice-Principal of Westcott House Theological College in Cambridge.

In India

Andrews had been involved in the Christian Social Union since university, 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 Mission to Delhi and arrived there to teach philosophy at St. Stephen's College, where he grew close to many of his Indian colleagues and students. Increasingly dismayed by the racist behaviour and treatment of Indians by some British officials and civilians, he supported Indian political aspirations, and wrote a letter in the Civil and Military Gazette in 1906 voicing these sentiments. Andrews soon became involved in the activities of the Indian National Congress, and he helped to resolve the 1913 cotton workers' strike in Madras.

With Gandhi in South Africa

Known for his persuasiveness, intellect and moral rectitude, he was asked by senior Indian political leader Ashram in Natal and publish his famous magazine, The Indian Opinion.

Following the advice of several Indian Congress leaders and of Principal Susil Kumar Rudra, of St. Stephen's College, Andrews was instrumental in persuading Gandhi to return to India with him in 1915.

Tagore and Sree Narayana Guru

In 1918 Andrews disagreed with Gandhi's attempts to recruit combatants for World War I, believing that this was inconsistent with their views on nonviolence. In Mahatma Gandhi's Ideas Andrews wrote about Gandhi's recruitment campaign: "Personally I have never been able to reconcile this with his own conduct in other respects, and it is one of the points where I have found myself in painful disagreement."[2]

Andrews was elected President of the All India Trade Union in 1925 and 1927.

Andrews developed a dialogue between Christians and Hindus. He spent a lot of time at Santiniketan in conversation with the poet and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore. He also supported the movement to ban the ‘untouchability of outcasts’. In 1925 he joined the famous Vaikom Satyagraha, and in 1933 assisted B.R. Ambedkar in formulating the demands of the Dalits.

Once C.F. Andrews, along with Rabindranath Tagore, visited Sree Narayana Guru, a spiritual leader from Kerala, South India. Then he wrote to Romain Rolland; that I have seen our Christ walking on the shore of arabian sea in the attire of a hindu sanyasin .

He accompanied Gandhi to the second Round Table Conference in London, helping him to negotiate with the British government on matters of Indian autonomy and devolution.

In Fiji

When the news reached India, through the writings of Christian missionaries J.W. Burton, Hannah Dudley, and R. Piper and a returned indentured labourer, Totaram Sanadhya, 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 on Indentured Labour in Fiji" Andrews and Pearson highlighted the ills of the indenture system; which led to the end of further transportation of Indian labour to the British colonies. In 1917 Andrews made a second visit to Fiji, and although he reported some improvements, was still appalled at the moral degradation of indentured labourers. He called for an immediate end to indenture; and the system of Indian indentured labour was formally abolished in 1920.

In 1936, while on a visit to Australia and New Zealand, Andrews was invited to and visited Fiji again. The ex-indentured labourers and their descendants wanted him to help them overcome a new type of 'slavery', by which they were bound to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which controlled all aspects of their lives. Andrews, however, was delighted with the improvements in conditions since his last visit, and asked Fiji Indians to "remember that Fiji belonged to the Fijians and they were there as guests."

Later life

About this time Gandhi reasoned with 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 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.[3]

Charlie Andrews died on 5 April 1940, during a visit to Calcutta, and is buried in the 'Christian Burial ground' of Lower Circular Road cemetery, Calcutta.[4][5]


He is widely commemorated and respected in India. Two undergraduate colleges of the University of Calcutta, the Dinabandhu Andrews College, and the Dinabandhu Institution and one High School in Salimpur area of south kolkata commemorate his name. The Dinabandhu Andrews College was constituted with an aim of disseminating higher education to a huge number of children of the displaced persons from erstwhile East Pakistan, presently Bangladesh.[6] He was a major character, portrayed by British actor Ian Charleson, in the 1982 film, Gandhi, by Richard Attenborough. He is honored with a feast day in the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America on 12 February.


  • The Relation of Christianity to the Conflict between Capital and Labour (1896)
  • The Renaissance in India: its Missionary Aspect (1912)
  • Non-Co-Operation. Madras: Ganesh & Co. 1920. 
  • Christ and Labour (1923)
  • Mahatma Gandhi His Life and Works (1930) republished by Starlight Paths Publishing (2007) with a forward by Arun Gandhi
  • What I Owe to Christ (1932)
  • The Sermon on the Mount (1942)

See also


  1. ^ "Andrews, Charles Freer (ANDS890CF)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  2. ^ Andrews, C.F. (1930). Mahatma Gandhi's Ideas. Macmillan. p. 133. The Teaching of Ahimsa 
  3. ^ "His faith, our faith". 
  4. ^ "The Telegraph - Calcutta (Kolkata) - Metro - ‘A love-hate relationship with Calcutta’". 
  5. ^ "The Telegraph - Calcutta (Kolkata) - Opinion - Searching for Charlie". 
  6. ^ Dinabandhu Andrews College

Further reading

  • D. O'Connor, Gospel, raj and swaraj: the missionary years of C. F. Andrews 1904-14 (1990)
  • H. Tinker, The Ordeal of Love: C. F. Andrews and India (1979)
  • Deenabhandu Andrews Centenary Committee, Centenary Volume C. F. Andrews 1871-1971 (1972)
  • P. C. Roy Chaudhuri, C. F. Andrews his life and times (1971)
  • K. L. Seshagiri Rao, Mahatma Gandhi and C. F. Andrews: a study in Hindu-Christian dialogue (1969)
  • Banarsidas Chaturvedi & Marjorie Sykes, Charles Freer Andrews: a Narrative (1949)
  • J. S. Hoyland, The Man India Loved: C. F. Andrews [1944]
  • N. Macnicol, C. F. Andrews Friend of India (1944)
  • J. S. Hoyland, C. F. Andrews : minister of reconciliation (London, Allenson, [1940])
  • David McI Gracie, Gandhi and Charlie: The story of a Friendship (1989)
  • Visvanathan, Susan, "S K Rudra, C F Andrews and M K Gandhi: Friendship, Dialogue and Interiority in the Question of Indian Nationalism",Economic and Political Weekly,Vol - XXXVII No. 34, 24 August 2002
  • Visvanathan, Susan.2007. Friendship, Interiority and Mysticism: Essays in Dialogue.New Delhi:Orient BlackSwan

External links

  • Charles Freer Andrews materials in the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA)
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