Presbyterian Church of England Foreign Missions Committee:Bangladesh/East Pakistan

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Correspondence, minutes, papers, printed materials and photographs

Administrative / Biographical History

In the years after the Indian Mutiny 1857-58 English Presbyterians were keen to begin a mission station in India. The area chosen was the district of Rajshahi, Bengal about 170 miles north of Calcutta, In 1862 a mission was established at Rampur Boalia, the main town in Rajshahi, by Rev. Behari Lal Singh, an agent of the Free Church of Scotland's mission in Calcutta. It had a mixed population of Moslems/Muslims, around 85 % of the population, Hindus, mostly land-owners and professional men, and 'tribal', partly nomadic people. "Behari Lal Singh and Mrs Singh began by opening schools, for both boys and girls, and combined this in the dry season with outdoor preaching and distribution of bibles and tracts." Behari Lal Singh died in 1875, his wife continued single-handedly for three years until the first English Presbyterian missionaries Dr Donald and Mrs Morison arrived in 1878.

Medical and educational and social work was carried out in Rajshahi, and neighbouring Naogaon, by an understaffed mission labouring under the threat of being closed down or transferred to another mission. "Hospitals were opened but closed, promising developments among both Moslem and aboriginal communities came to an end through lack of staff, both missionary and Bengali, orphanages came into existence but fear of educating the children to a life of dependence on the Mission brought their closure. But in times of crisis such as the cholera epidemic of 1906 or of the great famine of 1943 the Christian presence provided by the Mission staff and local Christians was very visible. The early women's work of Mrs Singh and Mrs Morison was maintained and developed in various forms such as the Bolunpur Girls' School and Women's Hospital in Rajshahi. The Westminster Hostel, opened in 1926, provided a successful experiment of Hindus and Moslems living together through years of intense communal tension".

"The congregation of the church at Rajshahi drew many of its members from those employed in the mission institutions, a source of concern to both missionaries and home church alike…. In 1932 Priya Barui … was ordained pastor … and … began his more than forty years of valued service." In the period after the partition of India in 1947, the mission increased its staffing (partly as a result of the closure of EP missions in China), expanded its hospital, and developed nurse training school and a girls' high school. Work was also carried out among the Santal tribal people beginning in 1949. However, the civil war between East and West Pakistan, which led to the establishment of Bangladesh in the 1971, affected the mission field, which is now the Rajshahi deanery of the Church of Bangladesh.

*** Extracts in quotation marks are taken from a pamphlet, published in 1997, entitled "1847 and all that" by Rev Dr George Hood.

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