UK charity BibleLands changes name and aims to raise £20 million over next five years to help tackle poverty and injustice in the Middle East
New name “describes exactly what we do” says Chief Executive.
Prominent Coptic Orthodox Church bishop in the UK signals support by becoming a Patron of the charity.
A 158 year-old Christian development agency is changing its name as it announces plans to raise £20 million in the next five years to help the poorest and most vulnerable people in the Middle East. Embrace the Middle East is the new name for the UK charity BibleLands, established in 1854 and probably best known for its Bethlehem Carol Sheet, used in thousands of churches across the UK. As part of the re-launch, the carol sheets will be now be distributed as a church resource, free of charge.
The charity has a new ‘open hands and cross’ logo.
It has also been announced that HG Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, is to become a Patron of Embrace.
The Chief Executive of Embrace the Middle East, Jeremy Moodey, said: “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 diversity of local Christian responses, whether it is in 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.”
“Our aim with this re-launch is to raise £20 million over the next five years to change the lives of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in the Middle East. Giving our famous Bethlehem Carol Sheets away is just one part of this campaign. 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.”
Jeremy Moodey added: “We are also excited that His Grace Bishop Angaelos has kindly agreed to become a Patron. Embrace is increasing its support of projects in Egypt, given the many needs there, and we have already established a good relationship with the Coptic Church in the UK. We are thrilled at this opportunity to strengthen further our links with Egyptian Christians in Britain.”
Embrace the Middle East (“Embrace”) is a non-governmental, interdenominational charity supporting humanitarian projects in the Middle East. For almost 160 years it has been working to improve the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged people, and it has extensive experience and expertise in this region. Embrace supports over 40 partner organisations in Egypt, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine which are Christian-led but who provide care for all those in need, regardless of faith or nationality. Today, with an annual programme spend of over £2 million, Embrace is the biggest UK Christian development charity focused exclusively on the land where Jesus walked. For further information about Embrace visit www.embraceme.org.
Consecrated as a Bishop by Pope Shenouda III in November 1999, His Grace Bishop Angaelos heads the Coptic Orthodox Church Centre in Stevenage. (Further information about the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK.) Bishop Angaelos joins three existing patrons of Embrace: the Bishop of Exeter, Baroness Richardson of Calow and the Revd David Coffey. Their details can be found at www.embraceme.org/patrons.
What are the reasons behind the decision to change your name?
We need to reach out to a wider audience. Research amongst potential supporters revealed that many Christians were deterred by our old name, regarding it as quaint and old-fashioned, and assuming that our ministry must be similarly out-dated. Others assumed that we distributed Bibles or were an explicitly evangelistic charity. We found ourselves describing what we were not before we could say what we are. As a result, we were not attracting the new supporters we needed to secure the future of the charity.
How does the new name position you for the future?
The need for a vibrant Christian social witness in the Middle East has never been greater. Many people see Christians in the region as victims; we prefer to see them as ‘salt and light’ in their communities. We believe our new name will appeal to a wider range of Christians in the UK, and help us achieve our goal of raising £20 million over the next five years to help tackle poverty and injustice in the Middle East.
How did you find the new name? Did you consult your partners in the Middle East and what did they tell you?
We ran several focus groups with key stakeholders, including long-standing supporters and partners in the Middle East, running various names past them. We looked for a name which conveyed our essence as an organisation, our DNA if you like. Our Middle Eastern partners loved the new name and our new ‘open hands’ logo. One 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.”
How much did the re-brand cost? Did you use consultants?
We hired a specialist agency, ABA - The Business Brand Agency, to help us in the process, which lasted over a year. They came to us highly recommended, given their work with other Christian agencies such as Samaritans Purse, SAT-7 and Spurgeons. The external and one-off costs related to the re-branding, including design and production of new marketing materials, were just over £150,000. This does seem a large sum, but we see it as a small investment in our medium-term strategy to raise £20 million over the next five years to help the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in the Middle East. Also, none of this money came directly from supporter donations; it was funded wholly by the surplus we made when we moved offices in December 2010.
How do you answer critics who say the new name jettisons the word ‘Bible’ and thus signifies the secularisation of the charity?
The inclusion of the word ‘Bible’ led to confusion. Some people confused us with Bible Society; others thought we were similar to the Gideons. There is a Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem and another Christian charity calls its supporter magazine ‘Bible Lands’. So we resolved that we needed to change the name. But we are definitely not secularising the charity since our work since 1854 of Christian care and compassion in the lands of the Bible is definitely not changing. On the contrary, it is because we want to be even more effective in our work for another 158 years that we feel the need to change. Other Christian charities (eg USPG) have felt the need to change their names, and they are not secularising either. All charities, including Christian ones, have to move with the times, while keeping to their core values.