In 1994, Gary Haugen was a Harvard-educated lawyer working for the U.S. Department of Justice when 800,000 people in Rwanda were slaughtered in an 8-week genocide. He was loaned out to the United Nations to direct its investigation of the murders.
His investigation changed his life. His eyes were opened to suffering and injustice in our world on a scale he had never seen. A few years later, Gary Haugen founded the International Justice Mission, an organization committed to freeing victims of oppression, prosecuting perpetrators, securing safe places of caring for victims, and changing communities so that injustice is no longer acceptable.
In his book Terrify No More, Mr. Haugen wrote,
"In former jobs I had traveled the world, witnessing the results of injustice, from abusive and murderous police and soldiers in the Philippines to South African apartheid to genocide in Rwanda. I had frequent conversations with attorney friends from church about a gap that existed in the great humanitarian efforts established worldwide. Wonderful organizations addressed many needs of the poor---providing comfort, housing, medical care, and food. But an obvious question emerged: Why don't we rescue them when they are being abused?
"There were, for instance, efforts in Cambodia to feed the hungry, heal the sick, shelter the homeless, and preach the gospel; some of these ministrations were offered within yards of the brothels of Svay Pak. Although some of these efforts might reduce the risk of some children being sold as sex slaves, what about the kids who were inside the brothels and getting abused now? Who was going to get them out? And who was going to do the most powerful thing to prevent it from happening again; that is, who was going to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice? What were we doing when the poor suffered because of the abuse and oppression of other people?
"The question became even more acute as I considered the commitments of my community of faith, and especially as I considered the teachings of Scripture on the matter. When I was directing the UN's genocide investigation in Rwanda, it became clear in the aftermath of those massacres that at the point of most critical need, as blood-hungry mobs circled the churches in which the victims huddled, those victims were not crying out for food, medicine, or housing. They were crying out for someone to restrain the hand of the oppressor. And likewise for the girls in the brothels of Svay Pak; their very souls were crying out for someone to rescue them from the hands of those who, day by day, abused them in ways that cannot be described in polite company. Who was going to respond to that need and see that the purveyors of such brutality were actually made to pay a price for their crimes?" (pp. 33-34).
Today Gary Haugen and his team of private investigators, attorneys, and social workers risk their lives to rescue victims of abuse and oppression around the globe.
In many ways, he is following the example of Jesus Christ. At the beginning of his ministry, Christ announced,
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Luke 4:18-19, NIV).
At the cross, Christ gave his life to rescue us from the abuse, oppression, and slavery of sin. He defeated Satan and his co-conspirators of injustice. He built a church to provide a safe place of caring for victims. His actions continue to change the world as more and more of us are no longer satisfied in doing nothing while our neighbors are being oppressed by sin.