"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"
I'm currently reading (and would also recommend :-), Timothy Keller's new book entitled, Generous Justice: How God's Grace Makes Us Just. Here is one excerpt from his first chapter pertaining to the issue of doing justice:
"Micah 6:8 is a summary of how God wants us to live. To walk humbly with God is to know him intimately and to be attentive to what he desires and loves. And what does that consist of? The text says to "do justice and love mercy," which seem at first glance to be two different things, but they are not. The term for "mercy is the Hebrew word chesedh, God's unconditional grace and compassion. The word for "justice" is the Hebrew term mishpat. In Micah 6:8, "mishpat puts the emphasis on the action, chesedh puts it on the attitude [or motive] behind the action." To walk with God, then, we must do justice, out of merciful love."
Why do justice? For me, it is a matter of obedience to who God is and how we are to reflect him. I became a believer when I was 12 years old. Since that time I've sought to know God more intimately through His Word and serve him in the world thereby making His glory known. I confess, some days are better than others. I am a huge work in progress who is ever grateful for God's grace and mercy. Throughout my journey there have been several texts that continue to challenge me on the issue of doing justice...
"Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause." Isaiah 1:17
See also - Isaiah 58:6-12; Matthew 25:35-40 & James 1:22-27
There are typically three reasons why people don't do anything to combat injustice: ignorance, fear or despair.
The above picture is one that haunts me... it is from a trip I took years ago to SE Asia to a very vulnerable village to sex trafficking... The 2010 TIP report states that this particular area "remains a hub for child prostitution, despite attempts by authorities to close it down...the sale of virgin girls continues to be a serious problem, with foreign and national men paying up to $4,000 to have sex with virgins... a significant number of men travel there to engage in child sex tourism..." Many times the parents themselves are directly involved. Ignorance was no longer an excuse for me following the trip and it will no longer be an excuse for some of you who choose to read this blog post....
What is human trafficking?
Here are some excerpts from a wonderful organization whose vision is a world without slavery called the Polaris Project. PLEASE visit their website for more information...
Human trafficking is the modern day practice of slavery. Also known as trafficking in persons, human trafficking comprises the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, based on the recruitment, harboring, and transportation of people solely for the purpose of exploitation. Every year traffickers generate billions of dollars in profits at the expense of victimizing millions of people around the world.
Victims of human trafficking are people forced or coerced into labor or sexual exploitation... Sex trafficking is one of the most lucrative sectors regarding the illegal trade in people, and involves any form of sexual exploitation in prostitution, pornography, bride trafficking, and the commercial sexual abuse of children. Under international law, any sexually exploited child is considered a trafficking victim, even if no force or coercion is present...
MYTH #1: Human trafficking is the forced transportation of people across borders.
Reality: Forced transportation in the absence of slavery-like labor or commercial sexual exploitation is usually considered the crime of kidnapping. Human trafficking is modern-day slavery through labor or commercial sexual exploitation, and does not require transportation to occur, though transportation may be involved.
MYTH #2: Trafficking victims are only foreign nationals.
Reality: Both the U.N. Protocol and U.S. federal law use definitions of trafficking in persons that do not require crossing of international or state borders. Many trafficked persons are victims of internal or domestic trafficking - trafficking within the borders of a single country, and are themselves nationals of that country.
MYTH #3: Poverty and inequality are the causes of human trafficking.
Reality: While poverty and inequality are important factors in making certain populations more vulnerable to being trafficked, they are not the primary cause of trafficking. Trafficking is a criminal industry driven by 1) the ability to make large profits due to high demand, and 2) negligible-to-low risk of prosecution. As long as demand is unchecked and the risks for traffickers are low, trafficking will exist regardless of other contributing factors.
MYTH #4: There's not much I can do about such a huge issue.
Reality: Together - we can make a huge difference!
(Please visit: www.PolarisProject.org for more information. You can also follow them on Twitter!)
Gary Haugen (President & CEO of the International Justice Mission) writes in his book, Just Courage: God's Great Expedition for the Restless Christian...
"In different times and in different ways, our heavenly Father offers us a simple proposition: Follow me beyond what you can control, beyond where your own strength and competencies can take you, and beyond what is affirmed or risked by the crowd - and you will experience me and my power and my wisdom and my love.
Jesus beckons me to follow him to that place of weakness where I risk the vulnerability of a child so that I might know how strong my Father is and how much he loves me.
But truth be told, I would rather be an adult. I'd rather be in a place where I can still pull things together if God doesn't show up, where I risk no ultimate humiliation, where I don't have to take the shallow breaths of desperation.
And as a result, my experience of my heavenly Father is simply impoverished. If I want to stay safe and warm at the visitor's center, I don't get to be with him on the adventure up the mountain. But he says his power is made perfect in my weakness, not in my strength.
Does this mean I need to abandon the things I do well? Do I have to let go of my sources of strength - my gifts, my passions, my training, my expertise? No, I don't think so. Those are good things from God. I think he simply wants us to take them on a more demanding climb, where we will actually need his help, and where he delights to grant it."
The concept of "control" resonates with me. I am a classic first-born child who leans type A personality. :) I know God is sovereign, but I like to at least have the illusion of being in control. There is something exhilarating about stepping out in courage. Whether it was to spend time with women in a maximum security prison, to become vulnerable through doing music, to teach Bible study to survivors of domestic abuse or even to speak out on this particular issue to which I feel completely ill-qualified, God always provides His much needed grace. If I'm being honest, my fears are most often rooted in my pride. What will people think? What if I mess up? What if I make a fool out of myself?
Later in his book, Haugen writes how "deep within all of us there is a yearning to be brave... it comes from how we were made. Courage - the power to do the right thing even when it is scary and hard - resonates deeply with the original shape of our soul... the indelible imprint of our Maker..." If it weren't for the Fall there would be no fear nor would there be any injustice! However, until the King returns we will battle these things.
What is it that keeps you from stepping out in courage? Seeking justice? Caring for orphans? Sharing Christ?
When you hear the statistics it can be pretty overwhelming...
27 million slaves in the world today
25,000 children die each day of hunger or hunger related issues
2 million children exploited by the sex trade
What can I possibly do? Here's my flesh response at times: I'm just a housewife and mother of five children. I don't have a degree in criminal justice or counseling or social work. Where do I begin? Then my questioning and pride wants to deter me from doing anything. But, if I really believe that God is a God of justice (Isaiah 30:18) and that Scripture is the very breath of God that equips me (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and that the fast that He chooses is "to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free... to share my bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into my house" (Isa. 58:6ff) then I MUST do something.
"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
WHAT CAN I DO?
Educate yourself and others...
There are several wonderful non-profit organizations and NGO's out there. I highly recommend connecting with the International Justice Mission. Here is a blurb about who they are:
International Justice Mission is a human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work with local officials to ensure immediate victim rescue and aftercare, to prosecute perpetrators and to promote functioning public justice systems.
Here are some ways to get involved:
* Follow them on Twitter (@IJMHQ)
* Join the IJM Institute (web-based community to share ideas and engage in dialogue on the issue of injustice)
* Pray - download prayer guide and become a prayer partner; start a monthly prayer group to intercede of behalf of the abused
* Give - support IJM and/or other like minded organizations who "stand up, speak up and show up on behalf of the oppressed"; this Christmas, Give the Gift of Freedom by shopping on IJM's holiday gift catalogue
* Advocate - be a voice for the voiceless - with our legislators in congress... there are important pieces of legislation that are currently on the table with congress (S.3184/Child Protective Compact Act/CPCA) and others like the Trafficking Victims Protection Act/TVPA which will be up for reauthorization in 2011. Get involved and stay tuned here...
* For students, start a campus chapter at your school. Learn how to here...
* Attend IJM's Global Prayer Gathering in the spring
* Get involved locally. Pray that God would give you eyes to see injustice around you. Call a homeless shelter or abuse shelter or a Christian Job Corps and find out what their needs are and then help meet them. Get involved with refugee ministry. The list is endless. Just do something!
"if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets to dwell in."