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Humanists UK warns schools and parents against supporting Operation Christmas Child

Humanists UK has warned schools against supporting the annual evangelical shoebox appeal, Operation Christmas Child, following a spike in queries from concerned parents.

Operation Christmas Child is run by a US charity, Samaritan’s Purse, which, unbeknownst to many parents, uses donors’ gifts to evangelise to vulnerable children. The appeal sends shoeboxes full of toys, books, and other presents to vulnerable children in Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe. But alongside the packages put together by schools, the charity also adds religious literature which aims to convert children to Christianity.

The appeal runs on an annual basis, with schools across the country encouraging parents to donate, often completely unaware of the indoctrination alongside the gifts. Due to Covid restrictions, some schools have said that they will not run the shoebox appeal themselves this year, but many are still encouraging parents to send directly to Operation Christmas Child.

The head of Samaritan’s Purse, Reverend William Franklin Graham III, has an established history of making homophobic and racist comments and has even gone on the record to describe homosexuality as an ‘abomination’. He also said Muslims ‘should be barred from immigrating to America’ and called on Christians to convert Muslims. An outspoken supporter of outgoing US President Donald Trump, Graham recently participated in the so-called March for Life, demanding a total ban on abortions across the United States.

This year, Humanists UK has also been made aware of another organisation, Blythswood Care, which is running a similar appeal to Operation Christmas Child and has found its way into UK schools. The Blythswood Care appeal sends shoeboxes of gifts, including Bible verses, to vulnerable adults and children in Eastern Europe. The charity’s website describes a physically disabled Bulgarian woman, who had not previously been to church, converting to Christianity as a result of being given a shoebox containing a story called ‘Jesus the Promised Child’.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham said: 

‘Operation Christmas Child cynically targets vulnerable children who have already suffered extreme poverty, war, and other terrible tragedies, using toys and presents to indoctrinate them. It is appalling that an organisation like this is still able to use UK schools as a platform to exploit the generosity of families who want to help those less fortunate than themselves.

‘We strongly urge parents and schools who wish to give an altruistic gift this Christmas to do so through a reputable, transparent charity which seeks only to give joy to vulnerable children, not to impose its own religious views.’

Humanists UK has drafted a template letter addressed to schools highlighting what their donations are contributing to and urging schools to reconsider their support for the scheme. The letter can be downloaded at humanists.uk/ethical-appeals

It says causes such as Aquabox and Link to Hope (itself a Christian charity) also run similar shoebox appeals, but with no ulterior motive. Other charities like Plan UK, Oxfam, and Children Need all have Christmas appeals.

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Ruth Wareham at ruth@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3000 or 07725 110 860.

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaigning on Operation Christmas Child and alternative appeals.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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