I was initially quite reluctant to blog about religion however around this time of year this somewhat controversial subject always comes up. Operation Christmas Child. The scheme where you fill a shoebox of goodies and it gets sent to needy children across the world. I participated at both school and work last year even though I was slightly uncomfortable with it and our school has just made the call to arms again however this year I will not be participating.
I've read lots of blog posts about the operation, both in support of the scheme and criticising it. On one hand I agree - what better time to talk about Christ than at Christmas and send gifts to those who don't have anything, what can be wrong with that? On the other, I cannot agree to support a group of evangelical Christian fundamentalists that is run by someone so blinkered.
Samaritans Purse is run by Reverend Franklin Graham who, in his own words, once called Islam "a very wicked and evil religion" and more recently "I speak out for people who live under Islam, who are enslaved under Islam, and I want them to know they can be free by Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone".
Now I consider myself a Christian, albeit, not a strong practicing one these days. I was brought up a Roman Catholic and I choose to bring my children up in the Christian faith, however some of my very closest relatives are Muslims and it seems wrong to me that children in multi cultural schools are being encouraged to support this scheme when their founder has beliefs like the ones stated above.
Samaritans Purse is a Christian organisation and I don't think they've ever tried to hide that fact, however most of the criticisms lobbied at the charity comes from that fact that bibles and Christian literature used to be inserted into gift boxes heading to Muslim countries. I believe this is still the case in many countries, although apparently not from the UK anymore (the UK is where the charity is met with the most resistance). Certainly, I think the extent of their missionary work is downplayed in the UK and they're a bit more upfront about it in the US.
Of course, I fully expect a Christian organisation to issue some Christian literature as part of their missionary work and this isn't really what bothers me. Why would they do it otherwise? Not just for that nice warm fuzzy feeling that doing something charitable gives you (and certainly not for the nice $1.2 million salary that Franklin Graham allegedly brings home each year).
I don't deny that the scheme does some good. My children enjoy the process of choosing the items to go in the box and I like what it teaches them. Selfless giving is something that is good for children to learn, especially those children that have so much, and showing them that there are so many underprivileged children affected by war, poverty, disease and natural disasters around the world is, I believe, very important. I'm sure the children receiving these boxes are so, so happy to get them and I'm sure the campaign will do exceedingly well in 2012 with millions of boxes being distributed, just, one of them won't be from me.
Ultimately, I just feel I can't offer my support to a charity whose president comes across as fundamentally anti-Islamic when Islam is and always will be a part of my own families life. How would I explain to my family that I am supporting an operation that is aiming to convert children from Islam to Christianity because it's wicked or evil? I can't, so I won't put myself in that position because just as Franklin Graham and supporters of Samaritans Purse are entitled to believe what they want, I am also entitled to my own beliefs and make my own choices. I choose not to support this cause when there are so many other worthy charities out there to support with my children and I shall be exploring that option this Christmas.