A WORRIED mum says a Christmas charity appeal run in schools across Kirklees is using children to spread an evangelical Christian message around the world.
Operation Christmas Child (OCC), run by charity Samaritan’s Purse, asks youngsters to fill a shoebox with Christmas gifts for disadvantaged children around the globe.
But a worried parent from Mount, Outlane, said many schools and parents did not know about the missionary aims and fundamentalist Christian literature that the charity distributed to both the schools and to the recipients around the world.
The woman, who did not want to be identified, said her children’s school, Moorlands Primary School at Mount, had withdrawn its support for OCC after its concerns about the charity’s goals were not eased.
She added: “Kids get excited about filling a shoebox with stuff like pencils, stickers, soap and jewellery.
“It’s a fun thing from them to do, but the charity states that the boxes must remain unsealed, which gives them the chance to slip in one of their leaflets.’’
The school’s head, Mrs Ann Walker, confirmed that the school was not taking part, but said it was a decision taken before she joined the school.
Jane Simmonds, a regional manager for Samaritan’s Purse, denied that any indoctrination was happening.
He said 12,000 shoeboxes were being collected in the Huddersfield and Halifax region.
“We don’t put anything into the boxes,” she said. “The boxes are sealed at our warehouses and sent around the world. The UK boxes tend to go to Eastern Europe and Africa.
“This year Huddersfield’s boxes will be going to Swaziland.”
Meltham town councillor and Kirklees district coordinator for OCC, Judith Powell, said allegations had been made previously after an article in The Guardian in 2003 indicated the Charity Commission was investigating the transparency of Samaritan’s Purse’s operations.
Mrs Powell said anyone was welcome to visit the OCC warehouse at St James’s Church in Meltham Mills to see the boxes were sealed for transport without any literature being inserted.
Mrs Powell added that over 200 volunteers and several local business supported the venture, including Lions clubs, Arrow van and car hire and the Leeds Building Society.
A statement from the Charity Commission said: “The commission has never formally investigated the Samaritan’s Purse.
“We have, however, talked with the charity concerning issues surrounding their use of the OCC appeal for evangelical purposes.
“As a result of our contact with the charity we were satisfied that the trustees were aware of their responsibilities regarding the way in which campaigns such as OCC should seek to solicit support from the public.”
Sue Lord, at Kirklees Council’s Children and Young People Service, said she was not aware of the claims against OCC, adding that proof would be needed before any intervention was made.