Last week’s Romford Recorder carried an article titled “MP unmoved by ‘evil’ Islam row”. Unfortunately I missed last week’s Recorder and the online edition has only a small part of the article. Always willing to bash my poltroon of an MP I was curious to find out what this story was about. Apparently it is about an evangelical charity which may put evangelism above charity and whose head is not averse to making intemperate comments about Islam.
On 25 October Liberal Democrat MP Timothy Farron tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) celebrating the work of Operation Christmas Child:
“That this House celebrates the Operation Christmas Child shoebox appeal run by Samaritan's Purse, which arranges for families in the UK to provide a sealed shoebox of Christmas gifts to be sent to children overseas who are less fortunate; congratulates the Westmorland Gazette for promoting this campaign in South Cumbria; and encourages hon. Members to take part in the scheme and to promote the appeal in their constituencies.”
Andrew Rosindell was one of a number of MPs that signed this motion presumably in the wish to be associated with a good cause. On the surface this seems to be a harmless enough motion even if the motivation of some of the signatories may have been self-serving.
Operation Christmas Child, an initiative of Samaritans Purse International(SPI) seems worthy in that it aims to distribute millions of shoe boxes filled by volunteers with sweets and gifts to underprivileged children in Eastern Europe and Africa. However, there have been allegations that the organisation’s motives are not quite as altruistic as it seems.
In 2002 the Guardian reported that its activities came with strings – the main objective being “…about more than Christmas presents. It is about introducing children and their families to God's greatest gift - His Son, Jesus Christ” according to the organisation’s head, Franklin Graham (son of Billy). The Rev David Applin, chief executive of Samaritan’s Purse, admits that a religious pamphlet - is distributed with the boxes but no box recipient is forced to accept religious literature and none is distributed in Muslim countries. However, in 2001, the charity was criticised in a New York Times article for holding prayer sessions in several villages in El Salvador before showing residents how to build emergency shelters following an earthquake.
Graham has condemned Islam on a number of occasions: In his 2002 book, The Name, he wrote: "The God of Islam is not the God of the Christian faith. The two are different as lightness and darkness."
When becoming aware of Graham’s views at least one MP withdrew his signature. Rosindell on the other hand apparently stated he supported the charity's work but that he could not be expected to check the bona fides of every group he endorsed in an EDM. (This is a person who put down one marking the return of Rupert Bear to British TV).
Leaving Rosindell aside I have a huge problem with any charity that would even consider using its work to proselytise, something that well respected charities such as Christian Aid or CAFOD would never do. If it is true that that SCI has ever attached any strings to its aid then it is ultimately self defeating unless you wish to create “Rice Christians”.