PRESS RELEASE – Barnabas Fund & The Times

A letter to the Editor of The Times newspaper from the chairman and patrons of Barnabas Fund UK

30 November 2020

Dear Sir,

We are saddened by both the inaccuracies and sensationalist tone of your report (27 November 2020) suggesting that there are “concerns” about the running of the charity, Barnabas Fund. In fact, following changes to our governance in 2019, the Charity Commission gave us a clean bill of health to continue to address the urgent needs of Christians who are persecuted and discriminated against in many countries throughout the world. In 2020 alone, Barnabas Fund has fed 780,000 people facing famine due to locust swarms and Covid-19 lockdowns.

Yours faithfully,

Lord Reading, Chairman of Trustees
Lord Carey, Patron of Barnabas Fund
Baroness Cox, Patron of Barnabas Fund

The editor of The Times has not chosen to print this letter.

“A report in The Times (27 November 2020) makes reference to Dr Patrick Sookhdeo and his role at Barnabas Fund, the global structure of our charity and governance, and a recent employment tribunal case brought by a former employee. The global structure of our charity and its governance are fully compliant with all charity regulations and law. As recently as October 2019 Barnabas Fund trustees and senior staff met with the Charity Commission during which our arrangements and structures were discussed. There were no regulatory concerns raised by the Charity Commission. We were given a clean bill of health about our arrangements which have been made to ensure effective delivery of aid to the world’s most persecuted people.

We greatly deplore the inflammatory language used in the article about Dr Patrick Sookhdeo. We told The Times that although Dr Sookhdeo has no formal role in Barnabas Fund UK, he is a trusted adviser and fundraiser and is International Director of the international charity. We ask for prayers for all concerned, especially, Dr Patrick Sookhdeo and his wife Rosemary, who will both be extremely distressed by this report. They have given many years of faithful and sacrificial service to the persecuted Church.

The only new element in The Times report arose from an August 2020 employment tribunal case brought by a former employee in which the judgement has just been released. The issues date back to 2018 and relate to alleged health and safety matters concerning travel arrangements to and from a speaking engagement in the UK. The charity would like to assure its supporters that it takes all its health and safety obligations very seriously. Whilst in this case there was a difference of opinion as to how the said travel arrangements ought to be implemented, the charity remains of the view that it acted appropriately and in accordance with its duties, and that at no time were its employees put at risk (even though this was disputed by the complainant). There were at least three drivers who shared the driving on this occasion.

In line with Christian principles in 1 Corinthians 6, we sought reconciliation and mediation with this member of staff in a number of ways. Members of staff and trustees spoke over a period of months to the employee in an attempt to resolve the matter in a Christian way but this was subsequently claimed to be in breach of his employment rights. Given the complainant’s stance, Barnabas Fund offered to enter mediation through ACAS but the employee rejected this option and sadly the dispute rapidly escalated into a Tribunal claim that the charity had no option but to defend. We should like to assure supporters that, as is common with charities of such size, the charity has insurance policies in place to deal with such issues so no charitable funds were expended on our legal costs.

Whilst the charity is saddened that in the first instance the decision went against it, we are currently considering an appeal. The charity has of course followed its legal advice throughout this process. The trustees respect the findings of the tribunal, but they have a very different view of the facts as laid out in the judgement. The trustees also believe that it is not unreasonable that a Christian organisation should follow Christian principles when seeking to resolve disputes with employees (so long as they do not contravene employment law). Having said that, they appreciate it is sometimes suggested, even by Christians, that Christian principles have no place in the modern workplace and this is an issue that the trustees and management of Barnabas Fund will continue to reflect and pray upon.”