Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Gary Haugan of International Justice Mission (IJM) speak. IJM, is a global human rights organization that works to end trafficking and violence against the poor. Wow, what a moving event!
In my travels and work with fair trade cooperatives, I have had the opportunity to see first hand the difference IJM has made in the lives of individuals. Sometimes I can get lost in the day to day details of running a fair trade business. Gary's speech touched my heart and relit the fire in me that is behind my organization; to share God's love with the vulnerable. I would like to take this opportunity to provide you some of the highlights of his talk. Also, at the end of this blog, you will find the link to view Gary's speech as well as the link to the International Justice Mission website if you would like to learn more about their organization.
Gary Haugan is the founder of International Justice Mission. He founded the organization on Bible verse Isaiah 1:17 - Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rescue the oppressed, Defend the orphan, And plead for the widow. Throughout the years IJM has served thousands of victims of violence.
Gary shared a concept that he called the Dignity of Responsibility. So what is Dignity of Responsibility? It is the joy that God offers to us as He gives us His work to do in the world. Yes, He could do this work by Himself, but He chooses to do His work through people.
Gary went on to explain that generations in history come forward to do the work they are called to do. For example, the First Century Church ushered in the Gospel of Love. In the 18th century, founding fathers formed a democracy. Then there was the Greatest Generation, who fought the Nazi-led genocide. And how about the civil rights generation who marched to defeat racism.
God has placed us in this generation, the one where slavery is rampant. When I quickly explain the concepts of fair trade to people and mention that no child or slave labor is used in the making of our products, I get a blank look and often a comment like "Slavery, is that still a problem?" There are more people in slavery today than any other time in history. In fact, 46 million people are held illegally in slavery.
Human trafficking is a 150 Billion dollar a year industry. That is more money than Ford, 3M, Coca-Cola, Home Depot, United Health, Exxon, Disney, General Motors, General Electric, Verizon, Walmart, Citi Group, J&J, & Wells Fargo have combined in annual income.
Slavery is a reality of our time. Slavery now takes on 21st-century forms; today slavery comes with technology. I think it is important to share some of the examples that Gary listed to help you put a face to the Delima. Today, there are still slaves laboring on agricultural farms and slaves making bricks. He shares a story of the first slave he met, a 10-year-old girl who was sold into slavery. This girl is forced to sit in a single spot and roll cigarettes 12 to 14 hours a day, every day. And the child sex trafficking rings in Asia where 5-10-year-old girls are sold to pedophiles. Gary does not stop here. He goes on to share the story and pictures of slaves who have their hands cut off because they tried to escape and girls who have been locked behind steel padlocks in brothels.
One story, in particular, touched my heart because it is one that I have seen. There was a sweet natured girl in the Phillipeans. She lived in a town with no electricity, no running water and no access to school. One day a friend of the family offers to take the girl away so that she can go to school. This offer seemed like a dream come true to her and her family. What happened was that she hand been abducted into a cyber-sex trafficking ring. She had been taken so that she could be sexually abused in front of a webcam so customers around the world could pay to watch. This scenario is just one of the new forms of slavery that technology brings.
Gary shares that it is important not be discouraged by these facts and stories. Even though slavery is vaster than ever, it is infinitely more stoppable than ever. He shares his vision of forces aligning to make our generation the one to see the end of slavery as a force in human affairs.
Why is now the time for slavery to end? It is the first time in history that slavery is illegal everywhere in the world. Seventy percent of world's slaves are in 10 countries where the laws are not being enforced. Slavery is stoppable because effective law enforcement combined with excellent services for survivors of slavery exist today.
Gary shares his view of God as a God of History, and the fact that God has placed us in this time of history. There are more slaves than ever, but He has given us the capability to end slavery. The question is will we be the Justice Generation; the one to end slavery? Will we be the ones that provide services to everyone? Has God given us this Dignity of Responsibility? Yes, God gives common everyday Christians this responsibility.
Yes, there is more slavery now than any other time in our history. So, how does the God of history respond? He responds by stirring up passion in His followers. He gives us the Dignity of Responsibility and invites us into the practical work of raising awareness and resources to ensure that everyone has freedom.
In Gary's words, "There is a God of History who is alive and well. An almighty God who in every era invites people to be his witnesses of hope." Everyone is invited to join the fight to end slavery.
Gary asked, "How are people who are trapped in slavery supposed to remember that God is good?" And then he responded that God has given us the Dignity of that Responsibility. God is inviting us to be the Justice Generation.
Global Handmade Hope and Glory Projects is my way of accepting that Dignity of Responsibility. As Christians, we are all connected in this responsibility, and my work can only go as far as you, my partners in this war against slavery will Dignity of Responsibility. I hope that God will place it in your heart to shop our fair trade artisan's products when you have the need for a gift. Your purchases cast a vote for social justice.
I just love the two quotes that Gary shared in his speech, so I am sharing them with you.
The first is a quote by Frederick Douglas – "Let the people of God array their immense powers against slavery and slave-holding, and the whole system of crime and blood would scatter to the winds – Frederick Douglass
And my personal favorite, Jesus's words to his disciples.
Join me in the fight to end slavery and buy fair trade products when possible. Shop our fair trade artisans and cast your vote.