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International Justice Mission
To protect, rescue and restore people oppressed by violent forces of injustice.

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By Haydn Jensen

Expose the lies. What lies? As Scott Forbes of International Justice Mission (IJM) Canada puts it, injustice cannot exist without lying. So, IJM goes into difficult places around the world to uncover and expose lies which lead to injustice and the threat of injustice. Our hearts often break when we hear news stories of blatant oppression and injustice, especially where children are involved. As Scott says, this is grown-up work moving beyond emotional response and requires sustained thinking and persistent efforts.

Scott Forbes serves as the Director of Development and Mobilization for IJM Canada in Ontario and Eastern Canada. IJM Canada is a Christian human rights organization that, in partnership with U.S. Based IJM, secures justice for victims of violence, sexual exploitation, slavery and other forms of violent oppression. The Canadian office is based here in London, and has grown from 4 staff in 2009 to 13 today, with more to be added soon.

IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work with local officials to ensure immediate victim rescue and aftercare. They also help prosecute perpetrators and promote the creation of functioning public justice systems. When a local IJM office becomes aware of a need, they begin investigating and gathering evidence. Once enough evidence is gathered, they will work with local authorities to move in, arresting perpetrators and rescuing victims. IJM then helps provide victims with rehabilitation through emotional, vocational and domestic support in a safe environment. There are about 450 IJM staff globally and about 95% of these are nationals. IJM conducts casework in the following areas:
  • Slavery
  • Illegal property seizure
  • Sexual violence
  • Sex trafficking
  • Illegal detention
  • Citizenship documentation


IJM's work concentrates on regions

Scott explained to me that, in Canada and other developed nations, we can say that we live under the rule of law. Some may argue with this idea, but we have a comparably functional accountability system in place. For many other societies, however, this rule of law is a dream—rule of whim is the reality, with some individuals completely above the law. While International Justice Mission cannot operate in regions of anarchy or political chaos, they do operate in places where laws exist but are often not enforced, and weaknesses in the country's justice system allow abuse against vulnerable individuals to persist. Presently, IJM has ongoing operations in Cambodia, the Philippines, Thailand, India, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Peru.

Here is one example of IJM working. Just this month in India, IJM helped rescue four families from a life of slavery in an Indian brick factory. One of the men said he had taken out a $10 loan from the factory owner 15 years ago. He had simply wanted to visit his sister. He agreed to work in the factory to repay that small advance. But it was a trap. A decade and a half later, he was still working to repay the alleged loan. Six children<—>as young as 4 years old—were forced to work alongside their parents, baking bricks under the hot sun and toiling into the night. You can read the full story here.

Here's a sampling of other recent IJM new stories: February 18, 2013: 2 boys and 1 girl rescued from sex trafficking
February 15, 2013: 3 girls rescued from world of trafficking
January 31, 2013: Four innocent men released from prison after 11 months

IJM recognizes that most perpetrators of injustice against the poor do so because they believe they will not be held accountable for their actions. They go on to say, "Perpetrators who choose to victimize the poor simply because it appears they can do so are not brave people." When IJM can successfully bring about even a small number of convictions in a region, other would-be perpetrators see an increased likelihood of being brought to justice and facing a potential jail sentence. This can mean a large impact in reduced violent oppression as potential offenders adjust their behaviour.

Unfortunately—or fortunately—we in North America do not encounter situations of such desperate injustice directly. Because of this, we can lose touch with the deeply rooted biblical concept of justice as something we need to incorporate into daily life. Scott recalls just one of many important teachings from scripture that makes our role clear:

Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practice steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, says the LORD." (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

So, for us as Canadians and as the Church in Canada, IJM works locally to educate and mobilize more of us to embrace "a just lifestyle" of responsive awareness of injustice against vulnerable populations worldwide. When perpetrators of slavery, sex trafficking, theft and brutality can no longer operate under the cover of lies or ignorance, they become accountable and their power to oppress diminishes. Scott Forbes is available to speak to your church group and provide clear information about not only what is really happening, but how we can respond. You can find out more information on IJM Canada speakers and other involvement opportunities here.

Offered as simple ideas in their own rite, but also as a comprehensive conference event, IJM gives these three strategies for us to live justly as individuals and through our churches:

Educate: Share with others about the biblical mandate to seek justice
Explore: Investigate issues of injustice on short-term missions and find ways to seek justice by partnering with the local church
Engage: Pray for the work of justice, pay for the rescue the poor cannot afford, protect the vulnerable or pursue a career in human rights.

Please explore their website for further information: www.ijm.ca