theguardian: Giles Fraser —-
It’s depressing that a decade after I wrote about a Christian charity’s thinly disguised Islamophobia, they’re still at it
Franklin Graham (second from right) leads his father Billy, flanked by former US presidents George HW Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, on the campus of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2007.
It’s a simple idea. Find an empty shoe box. Fill it with toys, toothpaste or school crayons. And allow Operation Christmas Child to fly it out to some of the neediest children in the world. It’s the sort of thing that you can do together as a family. And it’s a pretty good way to introduce our children to how fortunate they are in comparison to others – not a bad lesson at Christmas.
Given this, it is unsurprising that hundreds of UK schools have become involved. Schools like Childwall Church of England primary school in Liverpool, which has put together 124 shoe boxes, with two of the children donating £25 of their pocket money towards the cost of sending the boxes to their grateful recipients. Last week, one warehouse in Hull packed off nearly 6,000 boxes, with local students and firefighters helping out to pack the lorry. And they are all part of an overall global effort in which over 113m such boxes have been distributed since OCC began in 1990.
So far, so good. Except all is not quite what it seems with this charity. Yes, it is open about the fact that it is an evangelical Christian organisation, with a mission to share the love of Jesus with those who do not believe in him. It is slightly shifty about the fact that it distributes evangelical literature along with the boxes – though not actually in them – and that this literature promotes an exclusivist version of Christianity in the form of innocuous-looking comic book with the sinister message slipped in: “There is only one way to be friends with God.” In many places these boxes are distributed, this is thinly disguised code for: Islam is wrong.
And here we come to the heart of the purpose of OCC. For, according to the boss and guiding force of OCC, Franklin Graham – son of the evangelist Billy Graham – Islam is not just wrong, it is “a very wicked and evil religion”. And by that he does not mean that Islam has been taken over by dangerous radicals, but that Islam itself is intrinsically evil. He recently told the British journalist Ruth Gledhill that Islam has been the same for 1,500 years. It “has not been hijacked by radicals” but is essentially a “religion of war”. But this comes from someone who, when recently asked about Muslim fundamentalism, insisted that “they only respond to force… I think there is going to have to be much large US involvement militarily.”
It is true that Graham has a pop at other religions too – “No elephant with a hundred arms can do anything for me” was his penetrating theological critique of Hinduism – but like many rightwing evangelicals, he is Islam-obsessed. Do the children and staff of that Liverpool primary school know that their generous instincts are being conscripted in so radical and divisive a cause?
This year 60,000 OCC shoe boxes have been shipped off to Islamic State-displaced children in northern Iraq. It’s an irresistible political move for Graham and his compatriots. “These children will be reminded that there is a God who loves them,” says OCC domestic director Randy Riddle (making a clear contrast to the Muslim God that doesn’t). “That is the point and purpose of Operation Christmas Child, to share the love of Jesus Christ.”
A lot of fuss has been made about Muslim charities like Islamic Relief supporting the political agenda of violent religious radicalism, something of which it has been cleared. But we seem unconcerned that many of our schools might be supporting something remarkably similar – in Christian form. More than a decade ago, in this paper, I wrote a column criticising OCC for “giftwapping Islamophobia”. It is depressing to find that, since then, very little has changed.
Origional Post here: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2014/dec/12/evangelical-giftwrapping-islamophobia-marches-on