From the Washington Times, with thanks to EPG:
AL QOSH, Iraq “” Compared with the ferocity of war in much of Iraq, the isolated Monastery of the Virgin Mary “” 25 miles north of Mosul “” exists in tranquility.
Surrounded by desert, this cool shelter “” complete with olive trees, honeybees and a Chaldean church “” houses six monks and 36 orphaned boys, ages 5 to 14. Twenty-two girls live at a convent in nearby Mosul.
Over the years, the Rev. Mofid Toma Marcus, 37, an Assyrian Christian monk in charge of the monastery and orphanage, has kept the wolves away. During dictator Saddam Hussein’s reign, he passed off his orphanage as a seminary for students preparing for the priesthood, because the government was not anxious to let the outside world know the actual number of orphans in the country.
Even today, when the boys, dressed in jeans and T-shirts, line up after their naps and are asked how many want to become priests, six raise their hands. They will go to a Catholic seminary in Baghdad.
The fate of the other boys is uncertain, because Father Marcus will not give them up for adoption to Muslim families.
“In an Iraqi orphanage, they make you change your religion,” the monk said, “and I don’t want our Christian kids to be Muslims.”
Bound by law
He wishes he could send them to places like Detroit, which has many Iraqi Chaldean families who belong to the same ancient stream of Christianity and are willing to raise an orphaned child. Although the U.S. State Department says it has received many inquiries from American citizens asking about adoption, its Web site says adoption is not possible under Iraqi law.
One reason: Adoption is prohibited under Islamic law, which informs Iraqi civil 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.
But U.S. immigration law considers kefala insufficient for immigration purposes. Moreover, anyone raising a child under the kefala system must promise to raise the child as a Muslim.
“The chances of adopting a Muslim child is nil,” said Roni Anderson, a former Southern Baptist missionary who worked with Father Marcus for 12 years “” until this year. “They’d prefer the child be stranded than be adopted by a Christian.”
However, Father Marcus’ charges are Christians and not subject to Islamic law. To date, Iraqi law has not permitted foreigners to obtain legal guardianship of Iraqi children. But Iraqis living abroad might be allowed to do so.
Much depends on whether human rights issues for women and children are addressed in the new Iraqi Constitution and whether adoption is part of subsequent international treaties or agreements between Iraq and the United States.
So, Father Marcus’ charges continue to live in limbo.
Read it all.