International Justice Mission is a non-profit organisation that was set up by Gary Laugen in 1997. Laugen started his career as a human rights lawyer (graduating with a B.A in Social Studies from Harvard and Juris Doctor Degree from the University of Chicago) and in 1994 he acted as the Director of the U.N legal team that investigated the Rwandan genocide. His book “The Locust Effect” opens with the scene he faced when he got out there. It’s a hard few pages to read (even after having seen Hotel Rwanda I was still stunned) but they give a good insight into the reality of that dreadful event and its aftermath. You can certainly understand why after his return from Rwanda Laugen decided to found IJM.
International Justice Mission is an organisation founded on the Christian belief that God loves all people and everyone deserves to experience that love. IJM believes that persistent violence is one of the main causes of poor people remaining in poverty and it seeks to bring justice to those that are living outside of a safe justice system. It works side by side with a wealth of professionals, from lawyers and social workers to community activists and investigators. Their work is not just about rescuing the victims of violence (although this is a large and fundamental part of the NGOs work), but it is also about bringing criminals who live outside of the law to justice, as well as supporting rehabilitation for the victims of these crimes whilst working with local authorities to improve justice systems. Laugen believes that by improving the justice systems in the developing world then this will go a long way to bringing an end to this cyclical violence and also bringing an end to poverty. Whilst there are many other reasons for poverty that need to be addressed, and are being addressed in many cases, violence stops these other areas improving as best they can because violence inherently works against improvement. Studies show that those living in poverty are at a much higher risk of living with violence on a daily basis. Violence feeds corruption and corruption keeps the poor man down and the rich man up. In the developing world if you want protection from the law then you have to pay for it. If you are poor you will not receive this protection and therefore no matter what the circumstances you find yourself in, there will be no one to help you.
There are a number of different areas of violence that IJM is working against and seeking to eradicate-
- Sexual violence
- Human trafficking
- Police brutality
- Property grabbing
- Citizen rights abuse
The statistics of their work shows that they are succeeding in bringing about change and are having a major impact on the world of violent crime. So far they have saved 40,000 people from violence and oppression and are currently working to protect 21 million people around the world from oppression and violence.
I highly recommend reading Gary Lauren’s book “The Locust Effect, co-written with Victor Boutros. It is a tough read but also an incredibly powerful one. Hopefully it will have a similar effect on you as it did on me-to learn more about human rights, to understand these complex and deep issues better and to get up and run.
If you would like to learn more about IJM, get involved or support them then please visit their site at International Justice Mission.