Aid Group Crafts Catalog to Help Persecuted Christians

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A nonprofit human rights organization that provides assistance to persecuted Christians worldwide launched a catalog this month featuring handcrafts made by Christian artisans who otherwise could not find a commercial outlet for their wares.


Frontline Handcrafts was introduced by Christian Freedom International, which provides direct aid such as medical relief work, food, clothes and tools in countries where Christians face oppression. These include Bangladesh, Indonesia and Laos. The Front Royal, VA, organization began operation in 1983.


The idea for the catalog, which will be produced twice a year, came directly out of the nonprofit's work with marginalized Christians in some of the poorest parts of the world.


"The more we started working with oppressed minority Christians, we met a lot of artisans who couldn't bring their products to market locally because of persecution," CFI president Jim Jacobson said from Chiang Mai, Thailand, where he was working on behalf of the organization. Jacobson previously was a White House policy analyst during the Reagan administration.


CFI started out in the merchandising trade by buying handbags several years ago from Karen refugee women who had fled Burma for Thailand. Its supporters liked the products so much that it soon bought additional items. Eventually, CFI had the crafts shipped directly from the artisans to the United States and brought them to market via a catalog. Anyone interested can shop for handcrafts at the group's Web site, www.christianfreedom.org, or order a catalog on the site. All proceeds go to support the CFI ministry.


Products include ceramic and rag dolls, handbags, scarves, baskets, sarongs, jewelry, wood toys, paper goods and bamboo mats. As these are handcrafts made in small batches, the Web site is updated regularly to display CFI's most recent purchases.


"We are very desirous to give people the ability to work with their hands and earn a living for their families," Jacobson said. "It gives people a lot of dignity."


The 34-page catalog mailed in several batches this month to 25,000 people, including 15,000 to 20,000 who have supported CFI in one way or another. The remaining names are prospects who fit a profile of being Christian, care about religious persecution, are devout in their faith and tend to be conservative.


The catalog's inside front cover explains why CFI thinks it is important to encourage involvement in entrepreneurial projects. That page is followed by sections dedicated to handcrafts from five regions: Karen, Laos, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Thailand.


Prices range from $2 to $45 an item. CFI includes a receipt with all orders that shows the fair market value of each item along with the total gift amount to help customers determine what they can deduct from their taxes as a donation.


To promote the catalog, Jacobson and other CFI employees appeared on radio shows in early November, before the International Day of the Persecuted Church, which took place Nov. 13. During the shows, they mentioned the catalog as a way that people can support persecuted Christians around the world.


Chantal Todé covers catalog and retail news and BTB marketing for DM News and DM News.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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