Loosing the Chains of Injustice

colson2Each 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. As I mentioned last week, this year marks the two-hundredth anniversary of William Wilberforce’s great achievement, the abolition of the slave trade, the story told beautifully in the major film to be released next month, Amazing Grace. So when the award was announced earlier this month, it was difficult to imagine a recipient more suited to it than Gary Haugen, founder of the International Justice Mission and champion of the ongoing struggle to end human trafficking. In 1994 Haugen, an attorney, was on temporary reassignment from the U.S. Department of Justice working with the United Nations genocide investigation in Rwanda. His job was to accumulate preliminary evidence against the perpetrators. There, standing in the middle of several thousand corpses in a mass grave in Kibuye, Rwanda, Haugen stared into the swollen, machete-marred face of injustice. Returning home to suburban American life, Haugen could not purge those realities from his consciousness. As he read through the Bible, the command for God’s people to “seek justice” leapt off page after page: Isaiah chapter 1 and chapter 59; Ezekiel chapter 22; and many others.* But what could one ordinary suburban Christian do? With God’s help, it turns out, quite a lot. After surveying more than sixty-five organizations representing some 40,000 overseas missionaries and relief workers, Haugen found widespread awareness of injustices, like child prostitution, the murder of street children, detention or disappearance without charge or trial, or corrupt seizure of land. And yet those Christian workers were lacking the expertise to confront these injustices. So, in 1997 Haugen formed the International Justice Mission (IJM), a human-rights organization founded to seek justice on Christian principles. IJM’s corps of lawyers, criminal investigators, and government relationships workers today defends and rescues victims of violence, sexual exploitation, slavery, and oppression around the world. In Wilberforce’s England the slave trade endured for so long because its horrors were far removed from the eyes of everyday people, most of whom had never even seen a slave. The success of Wilberforce’s movement largely hinged on how he and his fellow laborers made the invisible horrors of the trade visible to the world. Like his predecessor William Wilberforce, Haugen is committed to bringing public awareness to the ongoing needs for justice across the world. Through his books, Terrify No More and Good News about Injustice, along with IJM-hosted talks in churches across the country, Haugen is raising that awareness and calling God’s people to respond in tangible ways to the prophet Isaiah’s call to “loosen the chains of injustice.” Wilberforce once said, “It is evident that we are to consider our peculiar situations, and in these to do all the good we can.” Providence aptly outfitted Haugen with the skills, expertise, and even exposure to injustice that would be necessary for him to engage in his life’s work. Haugen and Wilberforce’s choices to confront the evil in their path with the gifts they had been given is a testimony and example for all of us. *See also Isaiah 1:17; 59:15-16; and Ezekiel 22:25, 27, 30.
Today's BreakPoint Offer
See BreakPoint’s Fact Sheet on the Problem of Sexual Trafficking for ideas on how you can make a difference.
For Further Reading and Information
In Abolition Anniversary Year, Human Rights Lawyer Receives Wilberforce Award,” International Justice Mission press release, 22 January 2007. Learn more about International Justice Mission. Gary Haugen, Terrify No More (W Publishing, 2005). Gary Haugen, The Good News about Injustice (InterVarsity, 1999). Learn more about the Amazing Change Campaign, inspired by the upcoming film about William Wilberforce, Amazing Grace, and sign the petition to help end modern-day slavery. Watch a clip of the upcoming film Amazing Grace at the Wilberforce Forum website. BreakPoint Commentary No. 070116, “Necessary Fanaticism: Combating the Slave Trade.” Visit the website for the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Also see the Department of Justice page on trafficking. Kevin Belmonte, Hero for Humanity (NavPress, 2002). An updated version is available in February 2007. Kristine Steakley, “Making a difference,” The Point, 3 October 2006. Catherine Claire, “‘Twas the Night before Elections,” The Point, 6 November 2006. Catherina Hurlburt, “A Hymn that Will Never Sound the Same to You Again,” The Point, 8 November 2006. David Batstone, Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade—and How We Can Fight It(HarperSanFrancisco, 2007). Eric Metaxas, Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery(HarperSanFrancisco, 2007).


Chuck Colson


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