THE bringing down of the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol last year led to a nationwide debate about the lives of those who we honour in public and who deserves such an honour.

Over the past week, the Church has been busying remembering the women and men whose lives have been honoured with official sainthood – All Saints Day – as well as those who we honour for giving us life or nurturing us in the faith.

This season of honouring and remembering includes Remembrance Sunday when we honour those who gave their lives for others in times of conflict and war.

The debate that followed the toppling of Colston featured largely on who else should be pulled down alongside the slave trader and philanthropist but the richer debate is surely to be found in who else we might be honouring, rather than focusing on who should be dishonoured.

In the spirit of that new debate I want to propose a little known English clergyman from the North East who is already honoured in the calendar of saints in the United States and whose image has appeared on stamps in the sub-continent but whose memory is largely ignored here in his home country.

Charles Freer Andrews was born in 1871 at 14 Brunel Terrace in Newcastle. After moving to Birmingham and then Cambridge, he was ordained a priest in the Church of England in 1897.

In the years that followed this extraordinary man became a theological educator both in England and then in India where he became an activist for Indian independence in addition to becoming a social reformer who campaigned against modern slavery, indentured labour and brought relief from grinding poverty to thousands.

Andrews became close friends with Mahatma Gandhi whom he first met in South Africa when Gandhi was leading civil liberties campaigns against racial discrimination under the administration of General Jan Smuts.

Andrews was instrumental in persuading Gandhi to return to India with him in 1915. Gandhi often referred to him as “Christ’s First Apostle” in recognition of the faith that inspired Andrews in his work.

Andrews’ work on behalf of indentured labourers in Fiji and his work amongst the downtrodden in India and elsewhere eventually earned him the name “Deenabandhu”, or "Friend of the Poor".

Andrews died in India in 1940 and continues to be honoured there, not least in the schools and hospitals which have been named after him.

In 1971 the Indian Government issued a commemorative postage stamp to mark the centenary of Andrews birth.

This year marks 150 years since Andrews was born here in the North East and began a remarkable journey that took him around the world and led to his honouring in different continents. Surely now would be the time to honour him in the country he always regarded as home for his saintly efforts in helping others in their struggles against poverty and for freedom.

The Reverend Arun Aruna is the vicar of St Nicholas’ Church in Durham