Barnabas Aid began as an aid agency to the suffering Church in 1993. Much has changed in the intervening three decades, but our core mission of providing practical help for our brothers and sisters wherever they are in need remains the same.
Barnabas Aid – then known as Barnabas Fund – was founded 30 years ago to meet a vital need: to alleviate the suffering of Christians wherever we could. In this we were guided by the Biblical command that Christians should “do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10, emphasis added), as well as the teaching of Christ that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
In that time governments have fallen and risen. Wars have been fought. Militant groups have formed, splintered and realigned. New nations have been created. Millions of people have moved around the world as refugees. Once-rare weather extremes have become commonplace. New diseases have rampaged across the planet. The Church has grown in some countries where she was weak and shrunk in some countries where she was strong.
Yet, although much has changed in the last three decades, our calling to provide practical help to our Christian brothers and sisters remains unaltered. Barnabas is still a channel for Christians around the world to help their fellow-believers. We still enable gifts to go “from Christians, through Christians, to Christians”.
30 years of growth
When Barnabas began, one priority was to help Christian converts from other religions, who typically suffer greatly when they decide to follow Jesus. Our other priority was leadership training, because strong church leaders can strengthen their church members. In all the many kinds of projects we have funded in 30 years, these two are still our priority.
Yet, thanks to God’s grace and the generosity of our supporters, our work has grown. In 1993 the donations received were few, so the grants made to our project partners were few. It was a part-time job for one person in the UK, and we helped only persecuted Christians in Muslim-majority contexts. Now in 2023 we have 123 staff based in 11 countries. Many colleagues have been with us for two or even three decades, and have gained wrinkles and grey hairs!
As donations increased over the last 30 years, we were able to expand to helping Christians suffering pressure or persecution from any ideological source, to strengthening Christians who are likely to face persecution soon, and even to assisting Christians suffering extreme poverty that is not directly due to their faith. In a typical year we now support 300-400 different projects in about 50 different countries. But those countries are not the same every year, so we have helped Christians in a total of 109 countries over the last 30 years.
Our network of trusted project partners and other contacts across the world has grown, giving us more channels for donations and enabling us to respond rapidly to urgent needs such as natural disasters.
Rapid response after the fall of Mosul, Iraq
Through our network of trusted project partners on the ground, Barnabas was able to give immediate aid to Iraqi Christians when the city of Mosul in northern Iraq fell to the advancing forces of Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) on 10 June 2014. Our first grant was sent on 12 June to help Christians who had fled the city.
On 18 July IS issued a terrifying ultimatum to all remaining Christians in Mosul. The next day, 19 July, we sent another grant.
On 7-8 August IS fighters conquered the Christian towns and villages in the plains of Nineveh, near Mosul. Barnabas responded with three more grants in the next two weeks.
We are thankful to the Lord and to our generous supporters that we were able to help at least 30,000 displaced Iraqi Christians in the first ten weeks after the fall of Mosul.
We have also established our food.gives and medical.gives initiatives, enabling supporters to donate items rather than money if they prefer.
Through our Barnabas Today website and Barnabas+ streaming service, we are now channelling blessings back from the suffering Church to our supporters and donors. The mature faith of Christians who live with daily suffering such as discrimination, injustice, violence or extreme poverty can be a blessing to Christians in the West. It can help them cope with their own suffering, whatever form that suffering takes, as well as prepare them for the persecution that looks likely to come to the West before long.
We still strive to keep our overheads as low as possible so that as much as possible of our income is available to help suffering Christians. Currently our global overheads are around 12%. When we receive donations for specific projects, we still forward 100% of the donation to the chosen project. (If the chosen project is already sufficiently funded we will use 100% of the donation for another project of a similar type or in the same country.)
The next 30 years
Only the Lord knows what the future holds, but His Word tells us that war, disaster, famine, disease and persecution will continue until Christ returns (Luke 21:9-12, 16-17). The Church will continue to share in the suffering of a world cursed with conflict, natural disasters, hunger and illness, while she will also undergo fierce persecution from a world that hates and rejects her Saviour.
The need to alleviate the suffering of Christians will therefore persist, even as the global context shifts and the precise details of what causes suffering and persecution change.
Please join us then, in not only giving thanks for all that God has done in these last 30 years, but also in praying that He will continue to bless and sustain the work of Barnabas as an aid agency to the suffering Church – perhaps for the next 30 years and beyond, however long remains until our Lord’s return.