"Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow." (Isaiah 1:17)
I came across a natural follow-up on the last few blogs with the latest recipient of the Wilberforce Forum Award. Each year since 1989 Prison Fellowship has given the William Wilberforce Award to that one person who has made a substantial difference in the face of formidable societal problems.
The winner this year is a man of whom most people would likely never have heard. His name is Gary Haugen, founder of the International Justice Mission and champion of the ongoing struggle to end human trafficking.
Like Wilberforce, Haugen found himself face-to-face with an issue from which he could not retreat. In 1994 he was on temporary reassignment from the U.S. Department of Justice working with the United Nations genocide investigation in Rwanda. The horrific scenes which he visited as he collected evidence would not allow him to return to normal life. The more he read his Bible, the more verses like the one above would speak to him. He decided he had to act.
He surveyed more than sixty-five organizations representing some 40,000 overseas missionaries and relief workers and Haugen found numerous examples of modern-day injustices for which there seemed to be no remedy. Issues like child prostitution, the murder of street children, persecution, etc... abounded, yet those who were aware of the problem lacked the resources or the power to affect change.
So, in 1997 Haugen formed the International Justice Mission (IJM), a human-rights organization founded to seek justice on Christian principles. the organization includes lawyers, criminal investigators, and government relationships workers who defend and rescue victims of violence, sexual exploitation, slavery, and oppression around the world. Their four-fold purpose is:
- Victim Relief - Relieve the victim of the abuse currently being committed.
- Perpetrator Accountability - Bring accountability and just consequences under the law to the specific perpetrator(s) of abuse.
- Structural Prevention - Prevent the abuse from being committed against others who are also at risk by strengthening community factors that are likely to deter potential oppressors, reduce the vulnerability of at-risk populations and empower local authorities to stop such abuses.
- Victim Aftercare - Provide access to services to help victims transition to their new lives and to encourage long-term success.
Haugen is an author of two books: Terrify No More and Good News about Injustice. The advice is not to read them unless you're prepared to do something with what you learn. You will be changed.
Congratulations to Gary Haugen. I hope we hear a lot about the success of his organization. they're helping to make the world a better place.