Former Holocaust refugee starts fund to rescue Christians from ISIS

by Katlyn Babyak
Posted 7/22/15, 04:10 pm

Jewish Holocaust survivor Lord George Weidenfeld plans to evacuate and resettle up to 2,000 Syrian and Iraqi Christians threatened by the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist network. 

As ISIS claims territory in the Middle East, it continues to force Christians to convert to Islam, pay a tax, or face execution. The 95-year old founder of a successful British publishing company, Weidenfeld fronted most of the costs to start the Safe Havens Fund. 

“I can't save the world but there is a very specific possibility on the Jewish and Christian side,” he told The Times of London.

Weidenfeld asked for support from organizations including the Jewish National Fund’s U.K. branch, which recently agreed to contribute to the project. 

“We have been greatly moved by the interest particularly from descendants of children saved by the Kindertransport operations,” said Michael Sinclair, vice chairman of Jewish National Fund U.K. 

The British government carried out the pre-World War II mission to rescue Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Europe. Weidenfeld has said the Safe Havens Fund is his way of repaying the British Christians who helped him and other children escape Nazi-controlled Austria. He was 19 when he fled the country in 1938.

Sinclair credited a July 16 Times of Israel article about the project for a boost in global attention and support. But other publications, including The Times of London, have confused the effort with a similar project. Barnabas Fund, a U.K.-based nonprofit, announced its Operation Safe Havens project to rescue and resettle Syrian Christians in June. Three weeks ago, Weidenfeld’s Safe Havens Fund partnered with Barnabas Fund to organize flights to Poland for 150 Syrian Christians.

The Times “wrongly reported that the project was organized and funded by Lord Weidenfeld,” said Anglican Bishop Julian Dobbs, Barnabas Fund trustee and former executive director. Barnabas Fund planned and funded the reported rescue mission on its own. Dobbs said more groups will arrive in Poland and other countries in the coming weeks and months. Weidenfeld will financially assist Barnabas Fund with Operation Safe Havens, which is just one of its projects to aid persecuted Christians around the world. 

Weidenfeld has urged Western governments to do more to support vulnerable Christians near ISIS-held territory. Barnabas Fund launched a petition Monday calling on governments to prioritize Christian asylum-seekers from Middle Eastern countries and to work with Middle Eastern governments to protect displaced Christians.

Katlyn Babyak

Katlyn is a 2015 WORLD intern.

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