Samaritan's Purse, the organization behind the Operation Christmas Child project, has responded to accusations that it's anti-gay and anti-Muslim.
The Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee argued in an article on Thursday that the gift boxes sent to children, many in Muslim countries, stem from an organization that holds anti-Muslim and anti-homosexual sentiments.
Samaritan's Purse, which is led by evangelist Franklin Graham, son of the late Billy Graham, responded to the op-ed in an email to The Christian Post on Friday, stating that Operation Christmas Child is "aimed specifically to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas — the birth of Jesus."
"Our purpose is to show God's love in a tangible way to children in need around the world. We do this by distributing millions of shoebox gifts to children who are affected by war, disease, disaster, poverty and famine to let them know that they are not forgotten," the group said.
"No matter where we go, we don't hide the fact that we are Christians. As our name illustrates, we are upfront about who we are," it told CP.
"Shoebox gifts are given to children regardless of religious affiliation and with no strings attached. Our method is demonstrated in love and we hope that our acts of compassion are an example of our faith."
The Guardian op-ed made several accusations against Samaritan's Purse, positioning that it's ran by "fundamentalist American evangelical Christian missionaries."
It took issue with the Bible stories and books dispatched alongside the children's gifts, arguing that such a strategy targets Muslim families.
Graham, who's also CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, was further accused of being anti-gay for adhering to biblical teachings on marriage — that it's is a union between one man and one woman. The op-ed also highlighted several of his Facebook posts opposing radical Islamic extremism as an example of perceived anti-Muslim sentiment.
Toynbee, then accused participants in the annual Operation Christmas Child shoebox project of participating in "anti-Muslim proselytizing."
Graham recently faced similar controversy in the U.K. when he preached in Blackpool in September at the invitation of local churches, but was accused by a small group of LGBT activists of promoting "hatred" and "bigotry."
The evangelist declared earlier in the year that that is far from the truth, however.
"I'm not coming to preach hate, I'm here to preach about a Savior, Jesus Christ who can make a difference in our lives if we put our faith and trust in Him," he told Premier of his intentions.
"We're not here to preach against anyone, we're here to talk about God," he added.
In December 2017, the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District in Canada ended its participation in Operation Christmas Child over complaints against the evangelical group's stance on same-sex marriage.
Director of Education Tony Stack said at the time: "For example, a child with two moms or two dads, unfortunately, has been put in the position of choosing between fitting in and partaking with other classmates in an activity, or supporting an organization opposed to the very existence of that very child's family unit."
Samaritan's Purse amended its statement of faith in 2016 to say that "human sexuality is to be expressed only within the context of marriage," and that a marriage by biblical definition is between "a genetic male and genetic female."
Samaritan's Purse Canada spokesperson Jeff Adams said: "We included these specifics NOT because our views on these issues had changed, but simply because the world's views on these has changed to the point where we felt the need to again remind our volunteers that our organization accepts the Bible as the inspired and infallible word of God."