In observance of the International Day of the Child Sunday, Amnesty International has asked area churches gather signatures on petitions to the Argentine government protesting what the human rights agency says is the political kidnaping of large numbers of children.

According to Amnesty International, since Argentina's military coup in 1976 about 15,000 people, including several hundred young children, have been taken into custody "by men wearing police uniforms and carrying regulations firearms and official identification" and never heard from again.

Appeals to the government for information about them from family, cergy and humanitarian groups have been unavailing, Amnesty International reports. Even after writs of habeas corpus have been filed in the courts, no information has been produced.

According to Ellen Lutz of Amnesty International, children sometimes are picked up along with one or both parents; in other cases children are taken in an apparent effort to force political conformity on their parents.

The two-page petition, addressed to "Members of the Government of the Republic of Argentina," charges the government with violating "almost every single right in the Declaration of the Rights of the Child which your nation pledged to uphold."

Sunday's petitioning in this area will mark the beginning of a worldwide push by the human rights organization to put an end to the abuse of children in Argentina.