Have you ever paused and thought to yourself – at this moment, somewhere, someone is suffering? Whether you have or haven't it doesn't take away from the sobering truth of this statement. But, take comfort good reader, there's hope. To have it on the record, the International Justice Mission (IJM) is a Christian human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. The personnel at IJM are a gathering of Christian professionals made up of lawyers, social workers, counselors, and investigators who work with local officials to ensure immediate victim rescues and aftercare, to prosecute perpetrators and to promote functioning justice systems. As nice as all of that sounds, the grand impact IJM is having around the world cannot be evinced clearly until we do something uncomfortable: take a look at all the evil IJM works around the clock to eliminate.
Violent oppression exists in several differing forms in our world and IJM seeks to work in places where these injustices exist. Some of these injustices are illegal detention, illegal property seizures, police brutality, impunity, slavery, and sex-trafficking. Sex-trafficking is what I would like to discuss in this post.
With over 2 million children annually exploited and trafficked in the global commercial sex trade, sex-trafficking is undoubtedly the most systemic abuse of human dignity in our day and age. Literally, what you're talking about here is the use of power being mightily abused to destroy someone's dignity and seemingly, their humanity all together. These victims – women and children – are deceived into this enterprise and treated as items. It's rape for profit, and a big profit it brings. Second to drug trafficking, sex-trafficking is the most profitable illegal industry in the world, bringing in billions of dollars at the cost of precious lives being sexually abused and taken advantaged of. What's more is the effect it has on the victims. Statistics show over 68% of trafficked victims meet the clinical criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder. Extreme psychiatric disruption is what occurs and it takes long-term counseling and therapy to for the victims of this modern day atrocity to receive healing.
At IJM, the focus is on protecting people from violent forces of injustice by securing rescue and restoration for victims and ensuring public justice systems work for the poor. This is a very holistic approach as IJM is not merely interested in rescuing victims from sex-trafficking, but even more so in rehabilitating their life through the use of proper social work and counseling efforts. It's often said at IJM that rescue is only the first step, for it's in IJM's aftercare program where many miracles blossom.
IJM's anti-trafficking casework top priority is to secure protection of the law for trafficked women and children. IJM investigators spend hundreds of hours gathering and documenting undercover evidence of trafficking and sexual exploitation. Using this evidence, IJM staff members then partner with local authorities to rescue victims from situations of ongoing abuse and ensure that they have access to aftercare services to meet their vital needs. IJM lawyers work alongside local authorities to secure the conviction and sentencing of traffickers and other perpetrators.
At IJM, the heart of everything that is done is to make real the hope which exists in realizing that God hears and sees the suffering and takes action to do something about it. But here's where you, the reader, are faced with a life-changing invitation: God wants to use not merely IJM, but you, and all of his people, to do something about sex-trafficking, about all the injustices of our world. At IJM, the efforts that are tirelessly and faithfully given, are given, because these issues are so dear to God's heart and thus, should be to the heart of his people.
So what can you do? Here are some ideas. Some of these are quite simple, some may require bravery and leaving your comfort zone:
- Simply do a Google search and look up facts about sex-trafficking or other injustices
- Visit IJM's website and look at their resource page and begin learning about current justice issues: http://www.ijm.org/resources
- Write or call your state representatives and urge them to support pieces of legislation which aim to combat different injustices (learn more here) https://secure3.convio.net/ijm/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=135
- Study the scriptures and underline and highlight the passages and verses which pertain to justice. You will begin to see how central these issues are to God's heart.
- I would greatly encourage reading Gary Haugen's (President of IJM) book Good News About Injustice
- Visit IJM's website and learn of other agencies doing a similar work to learn of opportunities how you can become involved on the front-lines of this world-changing work.
- Simply begin to make a daily effort just to remember those around the world who are suffering. In doing so, a stirring work will begin to take place inside of you which in turn, will lead you to take action.
Lastly, be encouraged to know that God doesn't merely call us to take action against injustice. He goes with us and empowers us to do the work. It is through this that the eyes of the watching world will see the hope and love which God has for them. May it be so.
Drew Hutcheson will be serving as IJM's Church and Community Relations Fellow in their Ugandan Field Office. He, his wife, and 16 month old son will be moving there in the middle of May 2012 through August of 2013. You can track his family's Ugandan adventure by visiting their blog at www.thehutchesonheadline.blogspot.com or finding him on Twitter: drewhutcheson