A government-sponsored welfare trust for poor Christians was launched yesterday nearly two decades after it was first proposed. About 60 people including religious affairs minister Shahjahan Mian and state minister for cultural affairs Promod Mankin attended the official launch ceremony in Dhaka. The Christian Religious Welfare Trust has an initial endowment of 50 million taka (nearly US$600,000) and was created to support development among Christian communities in the country. “Three other major religious communities [Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists] have government-sponsored trusts, and today we launch the one for Christians,” said Mian, who heads the trust, during the ceremony. “With this trust Christians in Bangladesh have found a government organization of their own and it will offer them support in various ways.” Nirmol Rozario, a banker and secretary of the trust, said that funds will be used for infrastructure and human resource development within the Christian community. Mankin said he regretted the delay in launching the trust, which he said faced opposition from Catholic Church authorities. However Holy Cross Archbishop Patrick D’Rozario of Dhaka said the Church had good reasons to oppose the trust. “I had some talks with trust officials and was informed that it will work for welfare of the Christian community. This is an organization administered and funded by the government,” he said. He added that there was concern that Church involvement in the trust would invite government interference in Church activities. “The Catholic Church is administered from Rome, and we don’t like to invite the possibility of interference from any other party. We are aware about the trust and if they want to help us that must be done in a way we approve.” Bishop Nibaron Das of the Methodist Church said the trust would offer ways for Christians to get support from the government. “I’ve heard that the trust will offer financial support. I’m planning to apply for funds to renovate some of our Church buildings,” he said.