Saturday, August 18, 2007

PGF Report 1--International Justice Mission

I'm planning to write a couple of posts about the Presbyterian Global Fellowship meeting in Houston this weekend based on my own experience and observation. For more comprehensive coverage of this event, check out the Presbyterian Outlook and Presbyterian Layman reports which I'm sure will be posted since both Jack Haberer and Parker Williamson were in attendance.

Gary Haugen, President of the International Justice Mission, made a powerful presentation about the work of his group. A former federal prosecutor, Haugen was appointed by the United Nations to investigate the Rwandan genocides in Africa. Haunted by his experiences there, he founded the IJM which is an international human rights agency that rescues victims of violence, sexual exploitation, slavery (yes it still exists) and oppression.

Haugen believes that the root cause of suffering for much of the world's poor is violence. Violence is intentional, scary and causes deep scars. Therefore in his opinion the traditional mission approach of the church--food, medicine and shelter-- are not effective. Christians must confront the violence in the world that manifests itself as sexual violence, police abuse, illegal detention, forced labor and violent land seizures.

The problem is that Christians have not prepared their minds for action against violence, but IJM has discovered that with the power of God, violence can be stopped.
My whole being will exclaim, "Who is like you, O Lord? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them."
Psalm 35:10
Haugen says that the vulnerability of the victim contributes to violence. If the poor and oppressed have a consistent strong advocate, the oppressors fade away because they are not brave. IJM's goal is to change the fear equation by finding those trapped in these violent circumstances, bringing in local authorities, rescuing them from their situation and then providing extensive aftercare services to help them recover. This is a dangerous mission for those who are involved in the investigations and rescues and some of them have been subjected to physical violence themselves.

Among the examples of people rescued by IJM was a family in India who had been held in forced labor in a brickyard. Undercover work by IJM led to the intervention of local authorities and the freeing of dozens of families who had been trapped in slavery by the owners of the brickyard. A couple of other examples involved very young girls who had either been sold or kidnapped by prostitution rings in southeast Asia. The foreign predators who flew thousands of miles to exploit them were also charged and punished thanks to the work of the IJM.

As a former prosecutor of child abuse cases, this is a mission that really speaks to my heart. Benefit dinners for IJM are being held in several cities this fall, including Houston. I'm planning to attend.


Gannet Girl said...

Thank you so much for posting about this, QG.

Sue said...

"change the fear equation"

I love that ~ it's so scriptural! How many times did Jesus say "Do not fear"?? Thanks for posting about this important gathering.

Serena said...

"Christians must confront the violence in the world that manifests itself as sexual violence, police abuse, illegal detention, forced labor and violent land seizures." Amen! Thank you for this post. I'll be watching for ways to get involved with other Presbyterian Christians to confront this violence.

Iris said...

The IJM is an incredible group. They have put out a very provacative video curriculum for youth that I used a couple of years ago. The youth are still talking about it. I wish I could remember the name of it, but I left it at the church when I left.

Mrs. M said...

This is really valuable information-- thank you!

A Rose said...

The curriculum is called "The Justice Mission." Hope tha's helpful!

Alyson T, International Justice Mission