The beginning of Christian Blind Mission
In 1908, German missionary pastor Ernst Christoffel travelled to Turkey and was overwhelmed by the desperate hardship experienced by people living in extreme poverty – including people with disabilities and orphaned children. He was confronted by children who couldn’t see, who couldn’t walk, who couldn’t hear, begging in the streets. He called them, “Nobody’s children” because no one was caring for them. With the support of friends, Pastor Christoffel set up a home in Malatia, Turkey to provide care and education for children with disabilities. He called this home Christoffel Blindenmission (Christian Blind Mission).
From decades of war to a lasting legacy
In 1919, during the First World War, Pastor Christoffel was expelled from Turkey. When he returned to Malatia the house was lost. His attempts to set up in Constantinople (now Istanbul) were thwarted by the authorities. Moving to Iran, Christoffel set up two homes for young people with disabilities in Tabriz in 1925 and Isfahan in 1928. Again, war disrupted his mission. During the Second World War, Christoffel was arrested when he refused to leave his charges. He spent three years behind barbed wire, but his will remained unbroken. In 1951, aged 70, Christoffel returned to Isfahan to help abandoned people with disabilities living in poverty. On 23 April, 1955, Pastor Ernst Christoffel died in Isfahan, Iran. His headstone reads: “Father of the Blind, Deaf-Mute, and Orphans”.
After his death, Christoffel’s supporters were determined to continue his work. CBM expanded into Asia, Africa and Latin America. Our work broadened from education and rehabilitation to include medical treatment, with the first CBM cataract surgery in 1966, and treatment for hearing and physical disabilities.
In the early 1970s, Australia started to mobilise around this work, and at the end of the decade, Australia joined the CBM International alliance.
In 2007, the international CBM movement changed its name from ‘Christian Blind Mission’ to ‘CBM’ to reflect the fact that our work extends far beyond blindness.