BibleLands changes its name to Embrace the Middle East
Embrace the Middle East is committed to continuing its mission to support Christian social projects in Israel and Palestine, Egypt and Lebanon
The Christian development charity BibleLands has announced a radical makeover as it launches a campaign to raise £20 million over the next five years to tackle poverty and injustice in the Middle East.
The charity, established in 1854 with Lord Shaftesbury as its first president, becomes Embrace the Middle East, and is committed to continuing its mission to support Christian social projects in Israel and Palestine, Egypt and Lebanon.
The charity has replaced its old logo, which many people found difficult to decipher, with an ‘open hands’ symbol incorporating a subtle cross.
The name-change has attracted comment from some supporters, who feel that by dropping the word ‘Bible’, the charity intends to secularise its image. Embrace asserts that, on the contrary, the new name will allow it to engage directly with a wider audience of Christians – many of whom have not been aware of the charity’s development focus.
Embrace’s Christian partners in the Middle East love the new name: one partner, who runs a project counselling at-risk youth in Beirut, said: “The new name is very evocative not only in an emotional sense but also spiritually, because one cannot stop oneself from thinking of Jesus ‘embracing the cross’ ... in the open hands one can see the hands of Christ, of which ours are but an extension.”
The Chief Executive of Embrace the Middle East, Jeremy Moodey, is excited about the change: “We want to challenge Christians in the UK to look at the Middle East through new eyes, to see the many needs in the region but also the wide range of local Christian responses, whether it is healthcare, special needs education, work for refugees or community development.
"Our new name describes exactly what we do – embracing the people of the Middle East with Christian love and compassion.”
One of Embrace’s longest-standing partners is the Anglican Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza City. Al Ahli is Gaza’s only Christian hospital, serving disadvantaged patients whatever their faith or political persuasion. That there is a Christian hospital at all is astonishing, since barely 0.1% of Gaza’s 1.7 million inhabitants, most of them refugees, are Christian. The hospital is under severe pressure owing to fuel and supplies shortages and is urgently in need of the support and prayers of Christians around the world.
The charity hopes that its new image will make more UK Christians aware of the vital work of their brothers and sisters in the Middle East. This is at a time when, in the context of the Arab Spring and the continuing impasse in the Arab-Israel dispute, the need for a Christian social witness in the region has never been greater.
But the new name and logo are only part of a major overhaul of the charity’s communications strategy. BibleLands was best known for its Bethlehem Carol Sheets, which it has been selling to churches across the UK since 1953. From this Christmas the Carol Sheets will be given away free.
CEO Jeremy Moodey is clear about the rationale for this move: “We would rather use the carol sheets to highlight our work, and that of our Christian partners in the Middle East, than make a modest profit through sales”.