Samaritan's Purse Pursues Christmas Drive Despite Opposition from Secular Group

Singer Bono (right) of the rock band U2 speaks as the Rev. Franklin Graham (left, in dark jacket), head of the international relief organisation Samaritan's Purse, looks on during the sendoff of gifts headed to Africa as part of the organisation's Operation Christmas Child in New York on Dec. 10, 2002.Reuters

An evangelical Christian humanitarian aid group is pursuing its annual Christmas drive to help poor children around the world despite opposition from a secular organisation.

The Christian group Samaritan's Purse, based in North Carolina, U.S.A., is once again undertaking its project called "Operation Christmas Child," where volunteers collect gifts, toiletry items and Christian literature to be distributed in shoeboxes to less fortunate kids. This is happening even as a federal court in Denver is hearing a lawsuit filed by the American Humanist Association (AHA) questioning the group's action.

The AHA wants to stop students from Colorado public schools from participating in making gifts with tags saying "opportunity... to faithfully follow Christ," claiming it violates the separation of church and state.

"This is not like a soup kitchen where, even if it is run through a church, there is no proselytising," Monica Miller, legal counsel for AHA's Appignani Humanist Legal Center, told the Religion News Service. "Operation Christmas Child puts religious tracts in the boxes after they are assembled and the school district may not align itself with any religious organization."

Christian volunteers helping the aid organisation, however, were undeterred by the court case filed by AHA. Susan Frazier, a member of First Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, is excited to be helping out Samaritan's Purse in its annual effort to reach out to children in need.

"I was an educator for 30 years and I have a real heart for children," Frazier said, as quoted by The Rocky Mount Telegram website. "I see this as a way to spread the gospel throughout the world through an ordinary shoe box."

Pam Edwards, a member of Englewood Baptist Church, meanwhile shared how volunteering for the Christian group's Christmas drive has become her way of giving back after she survived stage four lung cancer.

"I never had time to volunteer before, but I began looking for volunteer opportunities after my recovery. I feel that I have been blessed and have been given the opportunity to give back," Edwards also told The Rocky Mount Telegram.

"It breaks my heart to know that there are children in this world that don't know Christ and have nothing of their own. I feel like this is a special ministry to reach unreached people with the gospel," she added.