Archbishop's OBE a 'great honour' says President
The award of an OBE to Archbishop Emeritus of the Indian Ocean, French Chang-Him, has been hailed a great honour by President James Michel.
The President told the Archbishop: “Your elevation to the Order of the British Empire is testimony to your standing as a man of peace, justice and courage not only in Seychelles, but also internationally, especially in the Commonwealth.”
This OBE is the first award from the British and Commonwealth honours system to a Seychellois citizen in 35 years. The British government presented it to Archbishop French in recognition of his services to reconciliation, human rights, charity and democratic values as well as his help to British nationals in Seychelles.
In his letter to the Archbishop Mr Michel went on: “It is a highly deserved recognition of your lifetime achievements, your dedication and commitment to your calling, and a tribute to your many years of service, with ardour, compassion and humility, to the people of Seychelles. It is also a great honour that has been bestowed on our country.”
The OBE was officially was presented to Bishop French by the British High Commissioner Lindsay Skoll.
She described him as “an extremely humble and gracious man, who is a friend to many”.
She added: “Despite his own family pain and loss over the years, Bishop French is the epitome of forgiveness, reconciliation and positive role-modelling. He has worked tirelessly in the service of God and his fellow country men and women for many years, yet remains modest to a fault.
“His perspective, compassion and desire to help are limitless, as are his charitable works and services to the inter-faith committee. He made the Anglican Church relevant, and its words resonate, for all Seychellois.”
Bishop French trained and was ordained in the UK in 1962. He was appointed Bishop of Seychelles in 1979, until his resignation in 2004. He held the position of Archbishop of the Indian Ocean from 1984 to 1995.
Accepting the OBE Bishop French expressed his surprise at the award, and said that, for once in his long career as a clergyman, he was speechless.
He thanked his family for their support and dedicated the honour to the people of Seychelles, stating that, “we are all walking this path together”.
Archbishop Chang-Him has said two of the painful events in his life was the loss of his wife who succumbed to cancer in 1996 and the death of his brother Davidson Chang-Him who was shot during the coup of June 5, 1977.
After the award ceremony he said “I dedicate this award to the Almighty God, my family, the British community here, but it’s also to all the organisations I represent because we work as a team, so finally that leads to Seychelles that this award is being dedicated to.
“This inspires me to continue to do the work I have been trying to do and one of my deepest concerns is the question of reconciliation, uniting our people. So this is going to be my ongoing goal to try to work for the unity of our people.”