Last month I wrote a post about why I felt I couldn't join in and support Operation Christmas Child. People have very mixed views over the charity and I received mixed comments - some in support of Operation Christmas Child and some agreeing with my viewpoint. Since then I have shared my post on Twitter with Samaritan's Purse who very kindly took the time out to respond via email.
Today, in the interests of showing both sides of the story I am, with their permission, sharing their response to me. It may not answer all your questions and may not change your mind about the charity (it hasn't changed mine) but I do appreciate them taking time out to respond to this blog post and wanted them to have the opportunity to have their say.
Dear Mrs M
Firstly, we are sorry to hear how you feel about the Operation Christmas Child programme, but thank you for bringing your blog to our attention.
The mission of Samaritan’s Purse is to meet the needs of the victims of war, poverty and disease whilst sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, and our website and printed literature is clear about this.
We have never put Christian literature into shoeboxes before they are shipped, nor would we ever do so. Religious items are not on our suggested list of gifts to put into a shoebox, as we are always sensitive to the indigenous culture where shoeboxes are distributed, and we also want to place an emphasis on education and fun. Where deemed appropriate by our partners ‘on the ground’, we provide copies of a Christian booklet, The Greatest Gift, which contains Bible stories, including an explanation of the true meaning of Christmas. No-one is forced or obliged to take this booklet. Any invitation to a follow-on event is not given solely to the children, but rather working in partnership with local families and communities to ensure we act with the highest level of integrity and honour as Christians. There are no strings attached to the shoebox gifts – children are not required to become Christian, or sign a pledge in order to be given a shoebox.
Operation Christmas Child is an example of faith in action. As Christians, we believe it demonstrates Jesus’ teaching of who our neighbour is and how we love them. It brings together volunteers from every culture around the UK redistributing some of the wealth we have here to those who are in desperate need. It gives children who grow up with relative wealth the chance to be a part of selfless giving to others, irrespective of the creed, colour, religion, sex, ethnicity of either the giver or the receiver. This is a powerful message for children. It is part of a positive education about true compassion and one that welcomes diversity, which runs counter to those whose ideology is to teach that religion is harmful and breeds intolerance.
Our President, Franklin Graham, has expressed his concern about Islam, the religion, not Muslims, the people. His ministry and our ministry as evangelical Christians, is to anyone who is ‘lost’, including Muslims. In fact, many if not most of the children receiving gift-filled shoeboxes are non-Christians.
As an aside, in September 2012, we were at Christ Church Primary School, Spitalfields, with Franklin Graham, launching this year's Operation Christmas Child campaign. Most of the children wrapping and packing shoeboxes there were Muslims, their parents wanting their children to go to a Christian school because of Christian values.
Franklin Graham himself has said, “I do not believe Muslims are evil people because of their faith. I personally have many Muslim friends. But I decry the evil that has been done in the name of Islam, or any other faith--including Christianity.”
I hope this helps to answer some of your concerns, and the concerns of those who commented on your blog. Ultimately, it is your choice whether or not you take part in the Operation Christmas Child campaign, but we thank you for taking the time to write your comments and share them with us.
With every blessing,
I'd like to thank Samaritan's Purse for responding, where so many others probably wouldn't!