This is the second post in a series which began with Adopting a Child: Categories Unnamed.
The premise of this series is that -- despite many wonderful individuals who officially and unofficially work to bring adoptive families together -- the network of governments, policies, agencies and institutions in which they work do not see these children as individuals, but as a class of individuals that need to be categorized. Furthermore, because of what these categories say -- not about the children they classify, but the societies who create them -- these categories that cause children to languish without families remain largely unnamed. The point of this series is that those categories get called out in order that we can instead call these children by name.
#1: Children as Forced Converts to Preserve or Expand a Faith
This may seem an odd one, but it was actually the first category we encountered.
My wife is from Indonesia, and this was therefore the first country from which we considered adopting. However -- even to the disbelief of friends and family in Indonesia, many devout Muslims among them -- that country's government had decreed that (1) foreigners could only adopt through two state-run orphanage systems, not any privately or religiously run orphanage; (2) all children in the state-run orphanage system were automatically deemed Muslim, without regard to what region of the country they were from or the religious background of their biological families; (3) it is illegal for a non-Muslim family to adopt a Muslim child. Further rules and restrictions, on their face unrelated to Islam, were also in place to help enforce these three primarily religious, or at least anti-foreign adoption, objectives.
A lot of Americans advised us, "just lie."
However, although well-intentioned, these friends and acquaintances didn't realize what they were asking, which was for us to deny our faith in order to avoid discrimination.
Beyond Dickensian, that's Biblical. Our answer was to instead adopt from the nearby culturally and ethnically similar -- but majority Catholic -- Philippines, where we had sponsored a few children over several years, and which would, if anything, have preferential bias toward our family's faith. But although less egregious than Indonesia's near out-right prohibition on non-Muslim foreign adoptions, we didn't feel much more comfortable playing that bias card -- because we know that bias works both ways -- than we were with our American friends' initial, inadvertent suggestion to deny our faith.
But our American friends' recommendation to "just lie" was moot anyway. In Indonesia every citizen's ID card identifies to which of the state's six sanctioned religions they belong (atheism and Judaism are not allowed). My wife and all the members of her family have thus been officially branded Catholic since birth, and any change in status other than that caused by a non-Muslim woman marrying a Muslim man would be suspect.
Furthermore, official America is complicit in all this: as part of our government's good relations with the world's largest majority-Muslim democracy, the US State Department firmly warns that it will not issue a visa for any child adopted in avoidance of Indonesia's on its face discriminatory process, and will furthermore deport any child who somehow manages to slip through.
Period. No ifs ands or buts, nor any consideration of what would be best for the child.
And that brings us to our second category for next week: Children as Political Pawns.
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