Imagine yourself, for a moment, as a child, innocent and utterly dependent on your parents. A foreign military power declares sovereignty over your country and invades with troops, tanks and indiscriminate bombings. Occupying soldiers terrorize the people around you. As the horrors of war surround you, your parents — feeling that they have no other option — send you to camps advertised as a means of safely shielding you from the war. The cold, harsh reality is you haven’t been sent to an innocent “summer camp.” You are taken hundreds, perhaps thousands, of miles from home. You are indoctrinated in customs and beliefs that are not your own. If you’re old enough, you might be forced into military training. These camps aren’t the promised temporary reprieve from war presented to your parents — instead, they are a ruse to make you a pawn in the geopolitical chessboard, part of a coordinated attempt by a world superpower to erase the future of your own people. You are not, in fact, going home, and you might even be placed for adoption with a foreign family. Your life and your deepest ethnic, cultural, religious and familial identities are being robbed from you under the guise of rescuing you from the supposed peril of life in your country and being raised by your parents. This is the harsh reality for thousands of Ukrainian children right now who have essentially been kidnapped and are being brainwashed by the Russian state. War inevitably brings with it a storm of cruelties and atrocities in its wake, and the 14-month-long conflict in Ukraine is no different. Children are not only suffering, but they are also being victimized as political prisoners in a war in which they are the most innocent bystanders. Easter Sunday recently dawned bright for Christians everywhere, but at this holy time of the year we cannot be in any way deaf to the plea of the widow and the orphan. We must be aware that thousands of Ukrainian children have been abducted and are now trapped, with no way to return to their homes. Orphaned children in Ukraine were already vulnerable before Russia’s invasion last year. The Ukrainian government put a moratorium on adoptions at the outset of the war, as the United Nations Children’s Fund has long insisted that adoptions be suspended during conflicts due to the elevated risk of warring parties trafficking children or recruiting child soldiers. Yet Russia has been conducting a coordinated effort to displace orphaned children and trick families into sending their children away from war-torn areas — all with the goal of “re-educating” these children as Russians and even placing some of them with Russian families. In fact, President Vladimir Putin’s own commissioner of child rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, has adopted three Ukrainian children into her own family, and in July, she celebrated the following news on her own Telegram channel, “By the end of the week, one hundred and eight orphans of (Ukraine) Donbas who have received Russian citizenship will have parents.” According to the Conflict Observatory, Russia has systematically relocated at least 6,000 children from Ukraine to a network of re-education and adoption facilities in Russia-occupied Crimea and mainland Russia. Official Ukrainian estimates are that 16,000 children have been relocated — but the actual number could be as high as 250,000 children. Research indicates that all levels of Russia’s government are involved in this effort. The Conflict Observatory found that government officials at the federal, regional and local levels have been complicit in transporting children, raising funds, collecting supplies, managing camps and promoting the program. There are dozens of facilities holding these children — the Yale School of Public Health’s Humanitarian Research Lab identified 43 of them. One camp in Russia’s far east is nearly 4,000 miles from Ukraine’s border. And according to these reports, the children at these camps are subject to Russian re-education and military training or even placed for adoption with Russian families. In some cases, parents may have signed their consent for their children to attend the “camps,” but this consent is given under obvious duress — the threat of war, or the signing over power of attorney to unnamed agents. Every single one of these children has a face and a name. They once had inseparable bonds with their parents and lives and dreams in their homeland. Now their lives have been completely upended. Until 2022, Russia forbade its citizens from adopting “foreign” children. That policy changed with the invasion of Ukraine, in an apparent attempt by Putin to boost the country’s flagging population and replace its losses in the war. He waived the longstanding prohibition and encouraged Russians to support a “patronage” program of adopting Ukrainian children. According to one Ukrainian official who testified before the U.S. Helsinki Commission in December, Russian adoptive parents are paid $300 per year for each child they adopt — and about $2,000 a year for children with disabilities. Judges allow them to change the children’s names, making them harder for international aid groups to track. Russia even has a register of eligible adoptive parents and a hotline for adopting children from Ukraine’s Donbas region. Of course, forced deportation or forced transfer of a population violates international law and is certainly a crime against humanity. And according to some experts, it also meets the criteria for genocide — which is the attempt to destroy “in whole or in part” a national or ethnic group. World leaders have been speaking out forcefully against this. The International Criminal Court in March issued an arrest warrant for Putin’s war crimes, accusing him of being “allegedly responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation of population (children) and that of unlawful transfer of population (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.” President Joe Biden, while in Warsaw on Feb. 21, listed Russia’s crimes against humanity as he noted that Russia has “stolen Ukrainian children … in an attempt to steal Ukraine’s future.” And the Treasury Department has issued sanctions upon Russian officials for their actions victimizing Ukrainian children. Russia, of course, is pushing a counternarrative on the international stage, claiming these children held in custody either do not have living parents or guardians or that their parents cannot be reached. But as The Associated Press has reported, Russian officials who orchestrated the deportation of Ukrainian children told them they were not wanted by their parents, before working to place them with Russian families. This all raises the question: What, if anything, can Americans do about this? How are we, as Christians, obliged to act here? First, we should keep in mind that these kidnappings are being conducted by an ostensibly Christian nation. Putin’s war has been waged with the blessing of the Moscow patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church; these deportations and resettlements of children are all part of the war effort to cripple Ukraine’s future — a war effort blessed by Russian Christian leaders. So, as followers of Christ, we must speak out and condemn these crimes against humanity. We commend the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, for recently calling the Russian Orthodox Church to account for its shared responsibility in the war and in the abductions of children. We must make clear that these separations of families are offenses that cry out to heaven for justice and are utterly contrary to the Christian faith. And while we ourselves may not be able to enter Ukraine and stop the war, we can support international non-governmental organizations that are trying to access the camps and reunite the children with their families. You can give to ministries in Ukraine that are working to serve vulnerable children. Part of preventing future kidnappings is bolstering these ministries’ efforts to protect Ukrainian children now. There must also be international accountability for Russian crimes. This would include a robust information-gathering effort, such as a registry with the names of missing Ukrainian children and where they are. If they have been placed with Russian families for adoption, the registry must include these details. In the meantime, the United States and multilateral agencies must pressure Russia to require that two-way communication be established between Ukrainian children and their families at home. Children and Russian families should be protected from any reprisals by Ukrainians. And ask your member of Congress to engage on this issue. This doesn’t mean asking for more weapons assistance to Ukraine; it means funding the registration and retrieval of Ukrainian children and working to create a diplomatic space for NGOs to engage in retrieving children. We at Lifeline have supported congressional resolutions condemning the kidnappings. Pastors, do not underestimate the impact you can have from the pulpit. Communicating with your congregations on this issue can help change hearts and minds. Let us put our hope in the risen Christ as we pray for an end to the conflict in Ukraine, the reunification of families, and for war-torn communities to be rebuilt from the ashes. Let us never forget to care for the widow and the orphan. This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.