21 September 2017

International Justice Mission

raI Saw What I Saw

I saw what I saw and I can’t forget it

I heard what I heard and I can’t go back

I know what I know and I can’t deny it

Something on the road

Cut me to the soul

Your pain has changed me

Your dream inspires

Your face a memory

Your hope a fire

Your courage asks me what I’m afraid of

And what I know of love

Extract from ‘I saw what I saw’ by Sara Groves

raSometimes when we see the reality of the suffering in the world around us, we want to close our eyes and forget what we’ve seen. Because if we were to truly face up to the poverty, pain and exploitation present in the world, we would have to act: to do all in our power to help those oppressed. That was the experience of Gary Haugen, founder of International Justice Mission. Upon serving in Rwanda as the United Nations’ Director of Investigations following the genocide, he was so impacted by all that he saw, that he had to act. His response was to found IJM, an international human rights agency seeking to come alongside local governments to help rescue, represent and protect people who are the victims of illegal conduct, such as forced prostitution or bonded labour.

This journey from knowledge to action is articulated perfectly in the words of Sara Groves’ song I saw what I saw’. Sara, a singer / songwriter from the United States, has also made this journey. From the hurricane-affected state of Louisiana to some of the poorest villages of Rwanda, she has seen the reality of deprivation and disaster and has chosen not only to remember the suffering, but to take action. Sara brings this passion to life as a committed advocate for International Justice Mission, using her music to articulate the passion of the organisation, to encourage staff and to inspire many others to join in the fight.

The work of International Justice Mission is motivated by what we read in God’s Word: that He calls us to “learn to do right! Seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17) The work of rescuing those trapped in forced prostitution; of restoring land to the widows and orphans from whom it has been stolen; and of freeing those illegally detained in prison requires many things: legal knowledge, compassion and care and, very significantly, it requires commitment and perseverance. Attempting to put cases through justice systems which are often ill-functioning, can be frustrating and lengthy. Recently in Zambia, a widow named Margaret’s land was finally returned to her after a long legal battle.

This outcome, which marks the beginning of a new future for her family, took five years of perseverance and dedication by our team there.

Margaret is a widow and mother of eight. She also cares for her elderly mother and two orphans. After her husband passed away in 2004, she inherited the land and the small grocery stand where he had worked. However, a neighbour saw Margaret’s vulnerability, stepped forward and stole her land and her livelihood.

It’s a story we hear all too often in Zambia. After the death of a husband, widows are kicked off their land by more powerful neighbours. Without their land, these women cannot provide the most basic necessities for their children – just finding food and shelter can become a life and death struggle.

Margaret needed an advocate, and in 2007, she found IJM. It was a long and complicated battle in the courts, but Margaret was not fighting alone. And in June, when the victory was announced, we celebrated together with her. Now that her land and business have been returned, she can start selling groceries again and feeding her own family. Her children and grandchildren will have a future that simply wouldn’t be possible if Margaret hadn’t got her land back.

Just as in Margaret’s case, the staff in our 15 field offices worldwide work with perseverance and passion every day as they fight to bring justice to situations where the opposite has been true. And in our 15 years’ experience of doing so, we have seen much evidence that we can be hopeful for change: every time a family forced to work as slaves is rescued, allowing them to go free, as two families were in Chennai a few weeks before the writing of this article; every time a conviction is secured against someone guilty of abusing a child, just as was seen recently in Guatemala; or every time a brothel owner is convicted and put in prison, protecting an unknown number of people from ever being victimised by them in the future. Every client rescued is another piece of evidence that God is at work, and we can be confident that injustice can be overcome.

International Justice Mission UK is passionate about sharing these stories of hope to inspire listeners that God is at work all around the world, and looks forward to sharing more of these stories at Carnmoney Presbyterian in October. We will be joined on 5th October by Sara Groves, (visiting the UK for the first time this autumn), to bring an evening of music and inspiration, highlighting our work around the world.

For more information, please e-mail: Ireland@ijmuk.org WORDS Ruth Cooke