Forty-two Syrian families will arrive in Warsaw late tonight after fleeing from IS-controlled territory aided by the Barnabas Fund, an international relief agency for the persecuted church with the cooperation of the Jewish funded Weidenfeld Safe Havens Fund. Under conditions of great secrecy the families have been moved in the past few days to Beirut and tonight will fly to Warsaw.

The Polish government has provided visas to the 149 individuals and temporary accommodation is being given to the families through Polish church networks and the Esther Foundation, a Warsaw-based charity.

The evacuation to Warsaw is only the first step in Barnabas Fund’s rescue plan called Operation Safe Havens. A further 200 families are due to travel to Poland in the coming months. Other sponsoring countries are being sought to provide a welcome to Christians escaping the killing fields of IS-controlled Syria and Iraq.

The evacuation is carried out in conditions of danger and secrecy supported by a network of Christian leaders and churches.

“It is with a heavy heart that we evacuate Christians from ancient homelands where they have dwelt continuously for 2000 years,” said Barnabas Fund International Director, Dr Patrick Sookhdeo. “But the plight of these communities is dire and we need to do our utmost to save their lives.”

“The greatest challenge is finding governments prepared to open their doors to these particularly vulnerable families. We have to thank the Polish government and the Polish people for their willingness to help these persecuted communities.”

The Marquess of Reading, Patron of the Barnabas Fund said “Over £250,000 has been raised so far from the Jewish funded Weidenfeld Safe Havens Fund which is supported by members of the Jewish community and Jewish organisations including the Jewish National Fund.”

Lord Weidenfeld said: “We have been deeply moved by the plight of Christians in conflict torn Middle East countries, and we are supporting the transfer of Christian families to safe havens, where they can lead normal lives.”

“In the 1930s thousands of Jews, mainly women and children, were helped by Christians who took enormous personal risks to save them from certain death. We owe a debt of gratitude.”

Sir Charles Hoare Bt., who has advised the Barnabas Fund on the evacuation, called upon other European governments to provide support. “The Christian community in the Middle East is facing its greatest crisis. The homes of Christians are being demolished by this terrible conflict. They have nowhere to go unless we open our doors to them in their hour of need.”

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo and Lord Weidenfeld are available for interviews.

For further information contact:

Sir Charles Hoare Bt.   07733 320085

Andrew Carey                 07973 698531

Justin Doherty                07768 330223