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Samaritan's Purse is an evangelical Christian humanitarian organization that provides aid to people in physical need as a key part of Christian missionary work. The organization’s president is Franklin Graham, son of Christian evangelist Billy Graham. The name of the organization is based on the New Testament Parable of the Good Samaritan, in which Jesus uses a parable to teach people the second great commandment – how to "love your neighbour as yourself".
Samaritan’s Purse works in more than 100 countries around the world. International headquarters are in Boone, North Carolina, with additional U.S. facilities in Charlotte and North Wilkesboro, N.C. Affiliate offices are in Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Hong Kong, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Field offices are located in some 20 countries across five continents.
Bob Pierce founded Samaritan’s Purse in 1970 with a vision “to meet emergency needs in crisis areas through existing evangelical mission agencies and national churches.” Pierce had previously founded World Vision in 1950.
Franklin Graham met Pierce in 1973, and they made several trips together to visit relief projects and missionary partners in Asia and elsewhere. Graham became president of Samaritan's Purse in 1979 following Pierce’s death in 1978.
As the organization grew, Samaritan’s Purse not only funded mission partners but also began to develop its own large-scale relief projects:
The organization's medical mission in Liberia, West Africa, is one of only two medical NGOs active in Liberia. Samaritan's Purse and SIM USA both have been actively engaged in treating the recent outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic fever in Liberia. On August 1, 2014, the organization announced that it was evacuating 60 nonessential personnel from Liberia; it is noted that these evacuees are not infected with the Ebola virus. Samaritan's Purse introduced the Ebola virus to North America when Dr. Kent Brantly, a Texas-based doctor working for the organization, the first of two American medical workers infected with Ebola in Liberia while treating the disease, arrived in the United States on Saturday, August 2, and was treated and subsequently released after nearly three weeks in a special isolation unit of Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.
The organization's mission statement states that the organization seeks to meet the spiritual and physical needs of people suffering from war, poverty, disaster, disease, and famine, with the purpose of global missionary work attendant on humanitarian aid. The organization aims at service for the church worldwide to propagate "the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ".
Samaritan’s Purse seeks to specialize in emergency relief, shelter, water and sanitation, food and nutrition, medical care and public health, HIV/AIDS, and community-based livestock and livelihood projects.
Samaritan’s Purse includes several ongoing ministries.
In the fiscal year ending December 2012, Samaritan’s Purse generated over $376 million. Of that amount, 89.3 percent goes directly to projects; 4.3 percent is used for administrative support; and 6.2 percent is spent on fundraising. The organization has received a 4 star rating (out of 4 stars) from the monitoring organization Charity Navigator.
In 2010 Flavia Wagner and two Sudanese men were kidnapped while working for Samaritan's Purse in Sudan. The two men were released promptly but Wagner was held for three months. Upon her return to the US Wagner sued Samaritan's Purse and their security contractor, Clayton Consultants, a hostage negotiation consultancy owned by Triple Canopy, accusing the organization "of failing to train its security personnel adequately and of willfully ignoring warning signs that abductions were a threat to foreigners." The organization settled out of court in March 2012.
In March 2001, The New York Times reported that Samaritan's Purse had "blurred the line between church and state" in the way it had distributed publicly funded aid to victims of the El Salvador earthquake. Residents from several villages stated they first had to sit through a half-hour prayer meeting before receiving assistance. In a statement, USAID said Samaritan's Purse had not violated federal guidelines, but emphasized the need for the organization to "maintain adequate and sufficient separation" between prayer sessions and publicly funded activities.
In 2003, Samaritan's Purse was widely criticized within the United Kingdom after its president, Franklin Graham, stated that Islam is a "very evil and wicked religion", leading to opposition campaigns within the United Kingdom by Islamic leaders. Samaritan's Purse responded to accusations of being anti-Islamic by highlighting their long history of non-denominational cooperation and charity work in Baghdad without attempting to preach or proselytize.
Franklin Graham drew scrutiny in 2009 for drawing a full-time salary from Samaritan's Purse, while at the same time receiving a full-time salary from Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). This was called into question after his 2008 compensation from both organizations totaled $1.2 million. (Most of this was the result of a new IRS rule that required him to re-report deferred retirement contributions that had already been reported over the previous three years.) Some experts on non-profits have questioned whether one person can perform two full-time jobs leading organizations that employ hundreds and spend hundreds of millions around the world. In response to the questions about his compensation, Graham decided to give up his salary from BGEA, stating his calling to the ministry "was never based on compensation." He also had contributions to his retirement plans suspended until the economy bounced back.
The Samaritan's Purse project Operation Christmas Child has also been criticized in several countries, most notably in the UK, but also in Ireland and Canada. In the United States, Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has stated that such religion-and-relief groups are "using their position of power to try to persuade people to leave their faith.". In 2003, The British supermarket chain Co-op and South Wales Fire Service both suspended their support for the project after numerous complaints about its religious connections. Samaritan's Purse responded by stating that Christian literature was only handed out where it was deemed appropriate.
In October 2014, Samaritan’s Purse was criticised in the UK for threatening legal action against the posters of online comments on the discussion forum Mumsnet. The resultant letters prompted one of the busiest discussions on the site’s “Am I being Unreasonable” forum.