international justice mission
Photography has taken Jeremy Cowart around the world.
Cowart — recently featured in Christianity Today’s “Makers” issue and named the “Most Influential Photographer on the Web” by The Huffington Post — has photographed the Passion World Tour in 2008 and Britney Spears’ Circus World Tour in 2009.
He’s photographed Haitians after the 2010 earthquake, holding pieces of debris on which they’d written their thoughts and prayers, for a photo project that later was displayed at the United Nations.
And he’s stayed at a lot of hotels. Which got him thinking: What if a hotel could do more than just provide a place to stay for a night?
A lawyer for the Christian legal aid group International Justice Mission (IJM) has disappeared, and was last seen locked in a metal container with his client yelling for help, reports The New York Times.
Willie Kimani, a lawyer in Nairobi, Kenya, was representing the motorcycle taxi driver Josephat Mwenda in a case against a police officer who had shot him accidentally, and when Mwenda complained, retaliated by accusing Mwenda of a variety of false charges. Despite the harassment, Mwenda pursued the complaint in court.
Despite our best efforts, we’ve somehow missed it.
Even in the midst of our generous financial donations, volunteer hours, mission trips, and letter writing, we’ve failed to see what should have been glaringly obvious: the global poor lack the most basic ingredient for forward progression — personal security.
In their recently released book, The Locust Effect, Gary Haugen (founder of the International Justice Mission), and Victor Boutros (federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice) convincingly argue that all our best work to eradicate poverty — even while worthwhile, helpful, and well-intended — is for naught unless we concurrently address the epidemic of violence and fear facing the poor in the developing world. They write:
"...the forces of predatory violence will not simply go away... On the contrary, if the forces of violence are not restrained, it is the hope of the poor that will just keep going away...and there is nothing that our programs for feeding, teaching, housing, employing, and empowering the poor will be able to do about it."
When we think about the poor of the world our thoughts often drift toward starvation, unsafe water, malaria, and lack of medical attention. These thoughts will likely move us to taking action in a variety of ways. We give farming skills and equipment, we drill wells, we provide mosquito netting, and doctors volunteer their time to help treat the poor of the world.
All of these things can be helpful and beneficial but there is a deeper, much darker, problem below the surface of poverty. The problem is violence. Gary Haugen, the founder of International Justice Mission, recently released a new book titled The Locust Effect, which documents the plight of the poor in developing countries.
What benefit is it to provide schooling for girls that refuse to attend because many of them get raped when they attend? How can a micro-loan help a father provide for his family when he gets thrown into prison for a crime he didn't commit and can't afford to bribe the law enforcement? How is a mother supposed to care for her children when her home is taken away from her by her husband's family once he dies?
It was over in less than a minute. Three miles below the surface of the earth near a town in Virginia called Mineral, a fault line shifted. As a result, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake was felt from Georgia to New England and as far west as Detroit. The National Cathedral lost several stone spires, the Washington Monument cracked, and Sojourners' office was closed for the afternoon, as our building was checked for structural damage.
Tectonic plates move beneath our feet in the part of the globe that scientists refer to as the lithosphere. Over the course of a year, an average plate will move as little as 3 to 6 centimeters. The speed of their movement is 10,000 times slower than the hour hand on a clock and even slower than the rate of growth of human hair. For decades, sometimes centuries or millennia, a plate's movement might go almost entirely unnoticed. Then, in less than a minute, the world shakes and everything changes.
In response to Sojourners' radio ads about the budget debates, the Family Research Council's political action committee has launched radio ads in Kentucky and Ohio arguing that deficit reduction should cut programs that serve poor and vulnerable people. The ads assert that it is the private individual, not government, who has a responsibility to the poor. The ads say, "Jesus didn't instruct the government of his day to take the rich young ruler's property and redistribute it to the poor. He asked the ruler to sell his possessions and help the poor. Charity is an individual choice, not a government mandate."
This could put the speaker of the House, a Catholic, in a difficult position. Catholic social teaching instructs that the government does have a direct responsibility to the poor and that private charity is only one of the ways that Christians express concern for "the least of these." This ad sets itself in direct opposition to that teaching and the values that it comes from. The speaker was already in a tough spot when the Catholic bishops came out with a strong critique of the House plan, but now he has a powerful political organization calling for him to ignore Catholic social teaching all together.
I have been an international human rights activist and lobbyist for 31 years in Washington. There have been times when issues I cared about and worked hard on simply didn't bear fruit, and I wonder at those times if I've just been at this too long. Congress adjourning in October without passing the Child Protection Compact Act (S3184/HR2737) was one of those down-in-the-dumps times!
The CPCA would provide additional authority and funding for the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP) to designate "focus countries" and reach an agreement with them on the eradication of child trafficking. "Child Protection Compacts" would open the door to multi-year funding to help countries rescue victims and prosecute and convict perpetrators.
Last week I had the privilege of attending the Urbana 09 Missions Conference put on every three years by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. It was powerful to be worshiping Christ with 17,000 young adults who were saying "Here am I Lord, send me."