Barnabas Aid (USA) and Barnabas Fund (UK) stand at the forefront of the organizations seeking to aid persecuted Christians around the world. Bishop Julian Dobbs, Barnabas Aid USA’s Honorary Director, kindly agreed to answer LivingWithFaith.org’s questions about the vital work this organization is striving to accomplish.
LWF: Thank you for taking our questions, Bishop Dobbs. We live in times of marked increase in the persecution of Christians in many areas around the world. As this persecution rages globally, Barnabas’ resources must be strained to the limit. How does your organization decide where and when to apply the resources it has available?
Dobbs: Barnabas Aid has been working to support Christian minorities who are suffering for the faith for over 20 years. Our strong base of local and proven Christian partners in regions experiencing suffering allows us to effectively provide support in times of urgent and ongoing need. We endeavor to respond to crisis situations, such as the current plight of Christians in Syria and Iraq, as the needs develop, and we ask God’s faithful people in the West to support their brothers and sisters who are suffering.
LWF: As early as 2013, you wrote an open letter to Barack Obama, President of the United States, calling for urgent intervention in support of the persecuted Christians in Syria. To what degree do you feel the US and other leading nations have responded to this and other calls for action, and what more can be done by our nations regarding the human rights of threatened Christians worldwide?
Dobbs: The Obama administration can be commended for recently announcing support for refugees from Syria, however they have resisted giving specific and designated support to Christians from the region who are suffering. Some European governments have been willing to support suffering Christians by providing special visas specifically for Christians. I continue to call upon the Obama administration to do the same. Barnabas Aid’s ‘Operation Safe Havens’ is specifically focused to relocate persecuted Christians to countries that will welcome the faithful followers of Jesus Christ.
LWF: Barnabas Aid clearly utilizes a broad spectrum of tools to help the persecuted – ranging from legal and financial assistance to physical evacuation of believers from problem areas. In what areas can Christians in our own culture help in this struggle, in addition to prayer and the giving of financial support as we are able?
Dobbs: Prayer and financial support are always important as the needs are enormous and growing. Christians in the West can also petition their local and national representatives and call for support for the suffering Christian community. Barnabas Aid currently has a petition asking governments to provide a specific immigration process to support Christian minorities.
LWF: Barnabas’ “Operation Safe Havens,” which physically evacuates believers from areas of great danger, has been featured by several news media. To what extent are national governments in the Middle East and Africa, in particular, helping in the relocation of their threatened Christian communities?
Dobbs: There are significant numbers of internally displaced Christians in their countries of origin and increasing numbers among the throngs of refugees making their way across Europe. To date, the Polish government has offered assistance and Barnabas Aid has begun resettling Christians.
LWF: We are seeing increasing numbers of suicide bombers attacking Christian churches in areas as distant as Nigeria and Pakistan. Does Barnabas Aid advise Christian groups in affected areas on basic security issues or other preemptive responses to emerging problems?
Dobbs: Our ministry is to support suffering Christians. In many cases, church leaders in the local areas seek our guidance and support on a wide range of issues, however our primary role is to bring support from Christians, through Christians, to Christians.
LWF: Concurrently, we are seeing an increasing drive for a Muslim only Middle East, a Hindu only India, and other similar developments in other areas of the world. Has the situation always been this bad, or are we seeing the result of factors specific to our time?
Dobbs: There is certainly increased hostility and intensity directed towards Christian minorities. From the very early days of Christianity, the followers of Jesus Christ have been under pressure when they have faithfully proclaimed the gospel in hostile environments.
LWF: If we may ask a personal question, helping the persecuted is clearly only part of what you stress in your own calling. The hurricane relief work you organized in Indonesia, for example, was recognized by the New Zealand government. How do you balance your commitment not only to the need you see among the many persecuted Christians in the world, but also to other areas of relief work where help is often so badly needed? What is your advice to Christians who see the same manifold needs?
Dobbs: We pray for God’s wisdom and guidance, that He will lead us, provide through us and be glorified in our lives and ministries.
* LivingWithFaith.org recommends Barnabas Aid’s website www.barnabasaid.org and the organization’s bimonthly magazine barnabasaid.