Our Founder & President
Dr. Raj Aluri is the founder and President of the International Friendship Ministries and the Columbia International Festival. He is also the founder and president of the Agape English Language Institute for Internationals, USA.
He was born and grew up in India, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master’s degree in Political Science from the Osmania University, Hyderabad, India in 1973 and 1976, respectively. In September of 1976, Dr. Aluri came to the United States as an international student to pursue further studies at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. While there, he earned a Master of Arts degree in International Studies in 1979, a Master’s degree in Media Arts in 1982, and a Doctor of Education degree in 1987.
Dr. Aluri, founded International Friendship Ministries in 1981 with the encouragement of several churches. The ministry provides fellowship for international students and other internationals living in the United States. IFM also assists internationals in practical ways to adjust to culture and life in America. Since 1981, this ministry has reached out with Christian love to thousands of international students/scholars from more than 150 countries who studied in over 750 college/university campuses in 48 contiguous states and Hawaii. Hundreds of internationals have become Christians over the years through IFM. All of IFM’s ministry is carried out through local churches only.
Knowing firsthand the difficulties immigrants and refugees face in the area of communication when they first arrive in the United States, Dr. Aluri founded the Agape English Language Institute for Internationals, Inc., (AELI), in 1993. Now, as a U.S. Government Department of Homeland Security approved school, that institute provides instruction in English-as-a-Second Language to internationals in Columbia and Greenville, South Carolina. AELI also operated English conversational schools in Japan for over 10 years, though these have been recently closed.
In 1996, the Columbia International Festival, a ten-year vision of Dr. Aluri, became a reality. Since then, the festival has become an annual event and one of the largest indoor cultural and international events in the southeastern United States attracting approximately 20,000 people annually. The event brings all of the area’s international communities together to build a better community and improve relations between various ethnic, cultural, language groups and South Carolina communities at large. The festival showcases the music, culture, food and performing arts of the various cultures, nationalities, races, and language groups represented in South Carolina.
Dr. Aluri is married to Kathy from Windsor, Ontario, Canada. They have six children: Lydia, 29, is a Master’s graduate of Florida State University in piano performance. She teaches piano in Orlando, FL, and also helps financially manage Dr. Aluri's residential rental properties in Columbia. She is married to Ryan Blakemore, and they have a two-year old daughter named Emma. James 27, is a fourth-year medical school student at Johns Hopkins University. He is married to Megan Hartman. Paul, 25, is a Master’s graduate of Carnegie Melon University in Pittsburgh in computer science. He works as a software engineer in San Francisco. Lilian (21), is a Senior in Business at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. John (20), is a Sophomore in Economics and Political Science at Furman University in Greenville, SC, and Mark (17) is being home-schooled as were his five elder siblings. Dr. Aluri and his family reside in Columbia, South Carolina.
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