Helping Children of War is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to saving the lives of children stranded in a war zone or orphaned as a result of war. The immediate goals include raising awareness of the vast needs current charitable organizations face in providing a safe shelter and basic food, clothing and medicine. The longer range and more meaningful goals would include enacting new legislation both in the U.S. and Iraq to provide orphans with opportunities to reconnect with family members, establish guardians or find adoptive families.
In support of this mission, we need to raise awareness and begin a thoughtful debate concerning new legislation that could change laws in the United States to permit war orphans to legally enter the United States and remain as guardians and not adopted children. At this point Iraqi culture and tradition does not allow for adoption but does recognize guardianship.
An important element of the negotiation process with the Iraqi government would be to establish a workable system to oversee the religious education of the children under guardianship. The objection most often raised by Iraqis to orphans leaving the country is the children will not retain their faith or a basic understanding of their heritage. As part of the process of taking care of a child, the guardian would seek out a spiritual advisor within an existing Muslim organization to oversee the continued education in the Muslim faith and traditions.
While still a relatively new practice, international adoption has created a host of problems that did not exist in cases of domestic adoption. A major concern in foreign countries is a sense of lost identity; not only do children often look different from their surrogate parents, making it difficult to fit in, but they are also unaware of their own customs. A top priority of Helping Children of War is to encourage adoptive children and parents explore their origins of birth.
Therefore, an important element of the negotiation process with Middle Eastern and Iraqi governments would be to establish a workable system to oversee the religious education of the children under guardianship. The objection most often raised by Iraqis to orphans leaving the country is the children will not retain their faith or a basic understanding of their heritage. As part of the process of taking care of a child, the guardian would seek out a spiritual advisor within an existing Muslim organization to oversee the continued education in the Muslim faith and traditions.
Helping Children of War has a strong interest in the adoption conflicts that plague the Middle East, but the organization is not restricted to this part of the world. Adoption is a worldwide practice and orphaned children, whether a product of war or not, will always be in need of help. Helping Children of War plans to be a positive force in helping children on any continent.
Helping Children of War will act as a main focal point for up-to-date information on the issue of children of war including Iraqi guardianship and adoption. Our main activity will be to raise awareness within the media on this topic and gain public support by clearly defining a way to help these children.
Iraq has been destroyed by conflict and war. An 8 year conflict with Iran in the 1980s left more than 2 million dead, it was widely acknowledged that under Saddam Hussein’s rule hundreds of thousands of people were killed and the current war on terrorism has led Iraq to be called “a nation of orphans, widows and the handicapped”. Current estimates on the number of orphans range from 2 – 5 million. Many orphans wander the streets looking for food, sleep outdoors and very often are victimized. These children have no future and few advocates.
Although the U.S. State Department has received countless inquires from American Citizens asking about adoption, a message is posted on the website explaining adoption is not permitted under Iraqi law. Unlike in the west, orphaned Muslim children do not take the name and family relationships of their new parents. Instead, Islam allows “kefala”, a type of guardianship in which children retain their original family identities. Under this system, a guardian must promise to raise the child as a Muslim. Unfortunately U.S. immigration law considers “kefala” insufficient for immigration purposes.
At first glance, these differences may seem insurmountable. However the far-reaching motives of most individuals involved on either side of the debate is to save the lives of innocent children. After an orphan is placed in a loving home and is given a future, it becomes a very straight-forward process to honor the heritage and faith of the child.
The process of helping each and every child will also have a profound impact on Iraqi society and the war on terrorism. Currently Iraq lives under a haze of significant shame that as a nation they are unable to take care of their orphans. And it is widely understood and accepted that young orphans are a perfect breeding place for future insurgents. Beyond the significance of helping each, individual child; saving these children will positively benefit Iraqi society as well as the larger global epidemic of terrorism.