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Video: Man buried alive at east Belfast's Willowfield Parish Church

An east Belfast church is to hold a funeral with a very big difference.

John Edwards will spend the first three days of Lent buried in a specially adapted coffin in the grounds of Willowfield Parish Church at My Lady's Road.

John is the founder of ‘Walking Free’, a charity set up to help suicidal and addicted people.

His coffin is 8ft long x 3.5ft high x 4ft wide, enabling him to sit up as well as lie down. It has been kitted out with electrics and broadband.

The stunt is set to raise awareness of the needs of despairing people while John broadcasts stories of hope on the internet.

“I’m a former addict,” said John,  "but I’ve been clean and sober for 26 years.

"I know this is a radical move but people are continually contacting me who are either suicidal or who know friends or family who are. My plan is to speak to them from the grave before they get there and show them hope.”

During his time under ground John and his team will live stream from the coffin through the Walking Free website and live on Facebook.

He will take calls, emails, Skype and texts from all kinds of people in East Belfast and around the world, who in turn will share their stories, live streaming through the coffin.

“People will communicate with me how they have navigated and overcome trauma, suicide attempts, coping with addicted children or family members as well as addiction to substance and behavior,” said Edwards.

Edwards has pioneered rehabs, overcome Hepatitis C from dirty needles and spent time in mental homes back in the 1970s.

Willowfield Rector, David McClay said: "The season of Lent is one when Christians talk about dying to ourselves.  But the message from the grave is one of hope - hope for those who are struggling with addictions, hope for those who feel life is hopeless, and hope of life that is eternal."

You can follow the live stream on social media: #GraveChat.

More information can be found at http://www.walkingfree.org

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