DIAKONIA

In the 1970s, Archbishop Denis Hurley shared his vision of an ecumenical organisation to work for justice in the greater Durban area. He believed the church should have been doing more in the struggle to end apartheid. Hurley wanted to create an inter-church structure that would concentrate on the distress of ordinary people. “Working together to alleviate suffering and to humanise society is perhaps the most promising and exciting opportunity for ecumenism,” he said. The Archbishop started discussions with other church leaders in Durban, and founded Diakonia on 25 March 1976. The name is a Greek word which means service. Social action groups were a way for people in the church to organise themselves at a local level against the social ills of racism and injustice. Diakonia trained people to set up and effectively run social action groups in the struggle against apartheid during the 1980s.Although Diakonia was a safe space for those working for a new South Africa, this attracted the attention of the security forces and its offices were raided several times. In 1994 Diakonia was merged with the Durban & District Council of Churches and a new organisation called Diakonia Council of Churches was formed. The important work of transforming society continues in different ways today, because the task is far from complete.

The International Printing Press and Indian Opinion offices, Mercury Lane

The offices used by M.K. Gandhi at 14 Mercury Lane were used for the administration of both the International Printing Press (IPP), founded in November 1898, and Indian Opinion, the newspaper he established in 1903. The International Printing Press was founded on 29 November 1898 at 113 Grey Street, alongside the Natal Indian Congress hall. The press was owned by Viyavarik Madanjit, a Mumbai-born school teacher, and it provided the essential services of printing in vernacular Indian languages. The IPP was founded on the radical idea of worker ownership, and employees were paid a share of profits instead of a salary. At first the press printed mainly pamphlets, invitations and programmes on the used press Mandanjit purchased with English type, and the Gujarati, Hindi and Tamil types ordered from India. At the launch of IPP Rev Lancelot Booth commented that a press “in any community marked a distinct step in their progress”.
When the Transvaal government introduced significant restrictions on the civil rights of the Indian immigrant community following the South African War (1899-1902), Gandhi took steps to publish details of police powers of warrantless search, seizures and arrests. All Indians in the Transvaal were also required to carry identification and registration cards at all times, an extension of pass laws for Africans. With the support of the Natal Indian Congress (NIC), his clients and other notable Indians, Gandhi and a small staff published a newspaper to document the constraints imposed on Indian civil rights and educate the white South African community about problems facing Indian people.
Together with Madanjit Viyavaharik and the first editor, Mansukhlal Nazar, who was the secretary of the NIC, Gandhi prepared the initial issue of Indian Opinion on 4 and 5 June; the newspaper was distributed on 6 June 1903. Indian Opinion was published in Gujarati, Hindi, Tamil and English. The pages of Indian Opinion provide a valuable historical record of the disparities Indians suffered in South Africa, and documented the political life of the Indian community. Gandhi's experience with the publication and the political struggle in South Africa proved a major experience for him and helped him in his work for the Indian independence movement. He commented, "Satyagraha would have been impossible without Indian Opinion". In 1904, Gandhi relocated the publishing office to his settlement in Phoenix.

Location

Address: 20 Diakonia Avenue
GPS Points: -29.85286, 31.02419
Site Contact Details: Steven Kotze
Durban Local History Museums
steven.kotze@durban.gov.za
031 311 2239

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