ERIC Johnston is a trustee of CLIO Trust - a local charity based in the Lisburn area that recently launched a major awareness campaign in a bid to halt what he describes as the ruthless persecution of Christians in Orissa, India. CLIO Trust hopes the campaign will help to stem a flow of massacres and destruction of property among Church leaders and low Caste Dalit Christians in the Indian State.
Eric and his wife Aileen first became aware of the need in India in 2001 when an American Evangelist invited them to travel to the sub continent with him and support a Gospel Campaign in North East India.
While they were there, they discovered the problems arising from the Caste system, abuse of girls, poverty and discrimination among some 150 million low Caste Dalit people. When they returned to Northern Ireland Eric and Aileen decided, after much prayer to establish the CLIO Trust.
In the early days the charity set up an orphanage for 30 girls in Madras using their own funds. Today they fund four orphanages, three Christian Schools, construct churches and residential homes for the elderly and supply Bibles and Christian literature for distribution in India.
During the day I run a painting and decorating business but most of my spare time and evenings are spent working for CLIO. At present CLIO supports four orphanages, providing care for 120 children and I am in regular contact with the Pastors of the local churches who run them. It is essential we are kept up to date with everything that is going on.
I'm kept informed of the health, spiritual and educational development of the children. At least once a year Aileen and I travel to India to inspect the work and review their needs and development plans with the Pastors and their staff.
The charity is funded by offerings received from presentations of the work in Churches and Mission Halls; some local businessmen also provide much welcomed financial support, but the bulk of the income is from ordinary Christians across various denominations and Mission Halls in Northern Ireland. Preparing reports can be time consuming but it is important to tell others what exactly we are about and what is going on in India - especially in Orissa.
We have been successful in having this persecution debated in the Stormont Assembly and a motion condemning this violence was supported by all Parties and passed unanimously. CLIO is now active in seeking a further debate on this issue in the House of Commons at Westminster and this action has received wide spread support across the Province from the major Denominations.
We've set up a web site to allow people to register on E Petition. Visitors to the web pages will find reports, video links about the persecution and the plight of the Dalit people. They will also be able to donate on line to a "Relief Fund" which will bring additional finance to expand the program of aid for suffering Christians CLIO is currently committed to in this region. The web address is: www.cliotrust.org.uk.
We are not anti Hindu and we welcome the fact that the vast majority of Hindus and Christians live in peace; however as Bible believing Christians we must stand with our Brothers and Sisters in Christ in their suffering and not be ashamed of their chains".
* Eric & Aileen can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 97565542.