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Children look on in the Republican Hospital for Infectious Diseases, which specializes in treating HIV-positive children in Ust-Izhora outside St. Petersburg, Russia, in this Tuesday, May 30, 2006 file photo. Many Russian orphans born to HIV-positive mothers face discrimination on the part of health and educational officials. Authorities said Thursday they have halted the work of all foreign adoption agencies for several months, nearly shutting down the placement of children from Russia, the third most important destination for U.S. families seeking to adopt.
Most guys I know love that scene in the movie “Braveheart” where William Wallace rides in front of the army of Scotland and basically says that they (the English) can kill us, but they will never take our freedom. Mel Gibson’s character’s impassioned speech accented by blue war paint triggers deep emotions within men to champion justice.
William Wallace and his kinsmen engaged in a noble fight to protect their freedom and the weak among them. And while the reality of their battle was undoubtedly more brutal and less poetic than the onscreen depiction, the real Wallace and his men fought—and many died—for a cause they believed to be just.
As a Christian, I believe that God created all of us with an inner longing for justice. While more than 700 years have passed since William Wallace’s battle, the fight for justice is ongoing.
I once heard Pastor Chuck Swindoll say: “A litmus test for false vs. true religion is by its response to injustice. The test of our theology is passed or failed by one’s response to the weakest and most helpless in our society.”
I believe one of the most important fights to be fought today is on behalf of the orphan.
Last week, with the stroke of a pen, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law that shockingly robbed thousands of Russian children of their hope for a family. Last year, almost 1,000 Russian children came home to moms and dads in America. This year, hundreds more expecting to come home to American families have been told, “you have more value to us as a pawn in a political game than as a human being who deserves a family. Due to political considerations, your rights to a family have been voided. “
What must it feel like to be one of those children? Psychologist, Jon Bergeron, Ph.D. (Hope for Orphans) says “this outcome will be devastating to these children due to the fact that their dreams for the future will be dashed. Now they know they will be facing a future in an institution rather than having the protection and security of a family. The massive harm from not being able to learn basic relational skills in a family will be great and lifelong.”
Where is our government and the UN? Where is the global accountability demanded of any country that for political purposes apparently sees a child’s need for a family as irrelevant? We sanction countries around obvious child abuse issues such as sex trafficking and human slavery, yet no public outcry is made when helpless children are used as political pawns and deprived of hope for a loving family.
Regardless of if and when governments step up to help, this issue should move the heart of every Christian. As Christians, we believe that we are adopted into the family of God through faith in the redemptive work of Christ. Having experienced the joy of spiritual adoption, how can we sit idly by and watch innocent children robbed of their earthly adoptions?
Is it true that domestic adoption in Russia should be encouraged? Absolutely! Can the church in Russia be a sustainable place of hope for the hundreds of thousands of Russian children needing a family? Yes! At Hope for Orphans, we will be joining our friends Ukraine Without Orphans and Russia Without Orphans in early February to help encourage adoptions within Ukraine, Russia and the former Soviet nations. We will be expecting to see the mass mobilization of Christians and entire churches reflecting God’s love of orphans in the countries where most orphans live.
While my prayer is that every orphan will find a loving home—whether in Russia, Ukraine or somewhere else—Americans should not stop expressing our outrage over Putin’s disregard for the well-being of Russian orphans.
After all, it is a matter of justice.
Paul Pennington is co-founder and executive director of Hope For Orphans, a ministry of FamilyLife that equips local churches to build orphan care ministries and address the global orphan crisis.