Washington: To many Christian evangelicals, their commitment to finding homes for the world`s orphans is something to celebrate, and they will, gathering at hundreds of churches across the United States to direct their thoughts and prayers to these children.
But the fifth annual Orphan Sunday, this coming weekend, arrives at a challenging time, and not just because the number of international adoptions is dwindling.
The adoption movement faces criticism that says some evangelicals are so enamored of international adoption as a mission of spiritual salvation, for the child and the adoptive parents, that they have closed their eyes to adoption-related fraud and trafficking.
Some adoption advocates in evangelical circles have angrily rejected the criticism. But the president of the coalition that organises Orphan Sunday, Jedd Medefind of the Christian Alliance for Orphans, has urged his allies and supporters to take the critiques to heart. Alliance partners, he says, should be eager to support a broad range of orphan-care programmes.
"When the dominant feature of our thinking becomes `us as rescuers,` we`re in grave danger," Medefind wrote on the alliance website. "What often follows is the pride, self-focus and I-know-better outlook that has been at the root of countless misguided efforts to help others."
One leading critic of the movement comes from within evangelical ranks, Professor David Smolin, director of the Center for Biotechnology, Law and Ethics at Baptist-affiliated Samford University. Smolin and his wife adopted two daughters from India in 1998, then learned that the girls had been abducted from an orphanage where they`d been placed temporarily by their mother.
The evangelical movement "uncritically participates in adoption systems riddled with child laundering, where children are illicitly obtained through fraud, kidnapping or purchase," Smolin wrote in a law journal article.
"The result is often tragically misdirected and cruel, as the movement participates in the needless separation of children from their families."
Many of Smolin`s concerns were reinforced with the recent publication of "The Child Catchers," a book about the evangelical adoption movement by journalist Kathryn Joyce. It details cases where foreign children adopted by evangelicals were mistreated and looks at problematic Christian-led adoption initiatives in such countries as Ethiopia, Liberia and Haiti.