Harry Potter, the Deathly Hallows, and Mobilizing Kids for Social Justice
Seeking justice for the oppressed. Working to end the connection of child slavery to chocolate. Helping heal a devastated Haiti. Mobilizing young people to respond to a story of redemption by imaginatively working to build a better world. I think many of us Christians would hope that those words were describing the work of the body of Christ, intent on following the path of Jesus Christ in this world. In this case, they are actually descriptions of the Harry Potter Alliance. That's right -- the Harry Potter Alliance.
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Though the final movie of the Harry Potter series opens this Friday, the Harry Potter Alliance has been operating since 2005, and exists as a nonprofit organization intent on using the weapon of love (and a common affinity for Harry Potter) to combat the dark arts of our world. As their mission statement states, they use "parallels from the Harry Potter books to educate and mobilize young people across the world toward issues of literacy, equality, and human rights. Our mission is to empower our members to act like the heroes that they love by acting for a better world." And it's working. With more than 100,000 members and nearly 60 chapters worldwide, this real world gathering of Dumbledore's Army is making a difference.
For example, let's examine the case of the chocolate industry, and its connections to child slavery and unfair wages. In the Harry Potter books, Hermione Granger discovers that the food served at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is made by house elves (unpaid servants), and so she organizes a campaign for their fair treatment. The HPA responded similarly by asking Time Warner, the parent company that markets all Harry Potter merchandise, to switch the chocolate used in their merchandise to fair trade chocolate. They do not want chocolate made in the name of the boy who used love to save the world to support systems of injustice like child slavery.
Then, between November 2010 and July 2011 (the time between the release of parts 1 and 2 of the final movie, the group is launching the Deathly Hallows Campaign. During that time in the films, Harry will be seeking to destroy horcruxes (objects of dark magic representing evil and death), and so as a group the HPA is campaigning to put an end to seven real world horcruxes (injustices). The destruction of the "Starvation Wages Horcrux," which is the injustice related to the production of chocolate, is their first mission.
I personally find this endeavor fascinating. I applaud the mobilization of young people to acts of justice. The political climate in America these days is eerily similar to the totalitarian government J.K. Rowling presents in some of her books. Harry knows there is evil out there in the world and does whatever he can to raise awareness about it and do what he can to fight it. Yet the government power structures, the media, and even teachers mock him for his passion and punish him for trying to build a better world. They say he is the real problem -- stirring up fear and trouble when if he would just accept the status quo all would be well. Harry, thankfully, never listens to such lies. So, I am encouraged that the HPA is following in Harry's footsteps by not being frightened away from seeking justice by similar groups in our world.
[This post originally appeared in the God's Politics blog on November 17, 2010. Read the full post here.]
Julie Clawson is the author of Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices (IVP 2009). She blogs at julieclawson.com and emergingwomen.us.