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Apostleship of the Sea

Categories: BLOG | Published: 07/07/2017 | Views: 396
To mark Sea Sunday on 9th July, our new blog is written by Doug Duncan of Apostleship of the Sea (AoS), an agency of the Catholic Church that looks after the faith, pastoral and practical needs of seafarers.  Doug has been supporting the stranded Indian crew of a ship detained in Aberdeen since June 2016. 
 


The words of St Mathew’s gospel “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” probably best sum up my involvement with the abandoned seafarers from the offshore supply ship mv Malaviya Seven, which has been stuck in Aberdeen port for almost a year now.

The men are all Indian nationals and some of them have been on the ship for that length of time. Not surprisingly, it has been really difficult for them.
 
I have been supporting the seafarers since their vessel was detained. They were last paid in July 2016 and the crew on board as well as several of those who have now gone home are owed more than $650,000 in unpaid wages.
 
The seafarers’ predicament not only affects them, it also affects their families back home who have food, living accommodation and other costs to pay.  Several have school children and higher education fees to pay. This is one of their main worries and stresses – how to support their families back home in India.
 
I had a phone call from one seafarer’s wife asking me “What can you do?” It’s really sad to hear someone at the end of the phone crying and pleading “When is my husband going to get home?” Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer.
 
AoS ship visitors and I have gone on board the ship daily, talking to the men, providing practical help such as taking them to the dentist, hospital, arranging to get their hair cut – just making sure they’re not forgotten and are cared for during this anxious time.
 
We try and keep their spirits up and provide much-needed escape by taking them out and about to see local places of interest. So far we’ve visited local castles including Balmoral, Crathie, Fyvie and Dunnotar. We also visited nearby cities and villages including Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Stonehaven. Just recently, we took a few of them to Pittodrie Stadium and to an indoor cricket match.
We've also taken them to Mass - we attended Stations of the Cross during Lent, the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services, and Easter Mass during Lent and Easter. They thoroughly enjoyed it. One Hindu seafarer requested a visit to a Sikh temple to celebrate a special day for him so we made the necessary arrangements.
 
Last November I arranged for Bishop Hugh Gilbert to go on board the ship. He spent time with the crew, shared a meal with them and blessed both the seafarers and the vessel. The crew said “It was the most remarkably auspicious event for all of us. The ship’s atmosphere is now well charged with great positivity, divinity and great blessings of Almighty Lord the God.  Divinity has approached us miraculously.” 
 
The local parishes and community have been very generous, buying groceries and toiletries and making the crew feel welcome. The men spent Christmas with the Goan community, who invited them to a gathering, prepared Indian food, and shared dancing and games.
 
Pope Francis calls on those who work for the wellbeing of seafarers and their families to “be the voice of those workers who live far from their loved ones and face dangerous and difficult situations”. Seafarers are often referred to as 'the invisible on the margins of society'. By highlighting the situation of the Malaviya Seven crew AoS hopes to make them visible. Let the Lord bring light into their situation.
 
*Sea Sunday falls on July 9. Find out more about Sea Sunday and the work of AoS and how you can play a part in supporting seafarers at www.apostleshipofthesea.org.uk
picture by Mark Leman
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