Book review – Good news about injustice

A witness of courage in a hurting world
By Gary Haugen
IVP. 272 pages. £9.99
ISBN 978 1 844 744 077

There are several reasons for you to buy (or borrow) and read this book. Chief among these are that: i) it is on an important topic, and ii) there is nothing else quite like it.

The important topic is that of injustice, or that subset of injustice, in which the under-privileged are exploited and abused in ways which violate the laws of the countries in which they live.

Gary Haughen worked in the civil rights division of the US Department of Justice and directed the UN genocide enquiry in Rwanda. He then founded the International Justice Mission (IJM) as a specifically Christian organisation with a clearly focused mission: to work for justice for victims of illegal exploitation in the countries of the world. It is an American organisation, but there is a British branch, based in Colchester. The first edition has been updated with a fascinating preface in which Haughen shows how Christian concern about injustice has grown over the last decade.

He provides numerous examples of the kind of injustice IJM seeks to expose and correct: enforced prostitution, indentured child labour, which equates to modern slavery, illegal expropriation of land and property by the rich and powerful, failures of police to investigate and bring prosecutions of rapists of poor women. Each is heart-rending and provokes a sense of outrage.

Haughen’s response is compassionate and canny. He feels for the victims, but he and his organisation bring to bear on their situation legal knowledge, forensic investigation and formidable powers of advocacy. Their efforts to act wisely within the legal structures and culture of each situation result in a number of successes. Real people are named and their stories told. These are immensely heartwarming. That this should be done in Christ’s name, either for Christians or for people who are thereby shown the reality of Christ’s love, is deeply encouraging.

This is not simply the story of one man and the organisation he leads. There is a sustained reflection on injustice, manifestations of violence and deception, how intervention should be practised and of individual case methodologies. This is a deeply impressive body of work.

There are challenges too. In his final chapter, the author reflects on ‘The Body of Christ in Action: what we can all do’. A study guide appendix invites us to join that reflection. Even given that none of us can do everything, the biblical stress on God’s concern for justice surely means we must listen to the likes of Haughen and respond in the way that is right for us. And there is precious little else that I am aware of that covers the ground he covers.

Julian Hardyman, 
senior pastor, Eden Baptist Church, Cambridge (and an IVP trustee)