Saturday 3 December 2016

'Luckily, my daughter can't read' - parents' fury after primary school pupils given 'sledgehammer' Christian flyer

Claire McNeilly

Published 27/09/2016 | 08:36

The religious flyer was given to pupils at Lisnasharragh Primary School in east Belfast
The religious flyer was given to pupils at Lisnasharragh Primary School in east Belfast

A religious pamphlet which has been distributed at a primary school has been branded as "sledgehammer Christianity" and inappropriate for young children.

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The flyer, from Hope for Youth Ministries, was sent home with pupils at Lisnasharragh Primary on Tudor Drive in east Belfast last week to the horror of disgruntled parents who found them inside schoolbags.

Colin Tinsley of Hope for Youth Ministries
Colin Tinsley of Hope for Youth Ministries

It informs children: "If you want to get saved and ask the Lord Jesus Christ into your heart, here is a prayer that will help you do that" and "if you meant your prayer to God, then the Lord Jesus has saved you... every day, live your life for Jesus".

One parent, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Belfast Telegraph: "I don't mind children learning basic Christian principals but this is Christianity being delivered via a sledgehammer. I'm surprised the school allowed these pamphlets to be distributed. It was inside my daughter's schoolbag along with her homework."

A mother-of-two, whose four-year-old daughter just started the school on September 1, said she was annoyed because she hadn't been informed that there was a speaker from Hope for Youth Ministries in attendance.

"A lot of mums were shocked and very angry when we saw the flyer," said the 36-year-old, who also asked not to be named.

"There was a picture of a lamb on the outside and it looks innocent enough until you read the message and language used which should not have reached any primary school child, especially P1 pupils.

"Luckily, my daughter can't read because I really wouldn't want her to see material like that. But I think it's too much even for a 10-year-old to think of themselves as sinners needing forgiveness for being bad and then to be warned that even saying the prayer won't save them and that Jesus died because of them."

The stay-at-home mother from east Belfast added: "An adult may comprehend this but a child definitely wouldn't."

Principal Philip Monks said: "One parent contacted me regarding a flyer that had been given by Hope for Youth Ministries. All concerns expressed by parents are taken seriously. After consultation with staff, I responded immediately and to the parent's satisfaction."

Dromara evangelist Colin Tinsley, who runs Hope for Youth Ministries, said he was "deeply saddened" by the parents' comments.

"If they feel our approach is sledgehammer in nature, I'd be shocked," he said. "Having engaged with thousands of young people throughout Northern Ireland I would be so annoyed if anyone felt our approach was anything other than loving and caring. We simply present the gospel of Jesus Christ."

On the pamphlet, in handwriting above the prayer, it says: "If you want to get saved and ask the Lord Jesus into your heart here is a prayer that will help you do that. Remember saying the prayer won't save you. You must really mean what you say with all your heart."

The prayer then reads: "Dear Lord, I am a sinner. Please forgive me for all my sin. I'm really sorry for all the wrong things I have done. Thank you for dying on the cross to save me. I believe in You. Please come into my heart and life and help me live for You. Amen."

It adds: "If you mean your prayer to God, then the Lord Jesus has saved you."

Belfast Telegraph

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