Collecting Christmas gifts for disadvantaged children is an “appalling” promotion of Christianity, a humanist group has claimed.
Humanists UK – also known as the British Humanist Association – is warning against a Christian organisation that sends gifts and supplies in shoeboxes to children around the world.
The Samaritan’s Purse, which runs Operation Christmas Child, works with local churches to offer the Gospel to children when they receive the gifts.
Operation Christmas Child
Humanists UK claimed that donors are often left “unaware of these ulterior motives”.
Its Education Campaigns Manager, Jay Harman, said: “Using the donations of well-meaning parents and children as a tool for promoting an evangelical Christian agenda is appalling.”
The group has prepared a template letter that parents can send to schools opposing Operation Christmas Child.
The letter advises parents to write to schools saying that the Christian message included in Operation Christmas Child “is extremely problematic and one that I do not think the school should be supporting”.
Operation Christmas Child was started in 1993 and has since delivered over 124 million boxes worldwide.
A spokesman for the group said: “For many of these children, the gift-filled shoebox is the first gift they have ever received.
“No matter where we go, we don’t hide the fact that we are Christians. Shoebox gifts are given through the local church to children, but shoebox gifts are given to children regardless of religious affiliation and with no strings attached.”
The Samaritan’s Purse website states that every shoebox delivered by Operation Christmas Child “is a tangible expression of God’s amazing love”.
“It also presents an opportunity in more than 100 countries for our church partners to invite children into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.”