Each year Prison Fellowship bestows an award on the person who has best exemplified the work and spirit of William Wilberforce. Past recipients include U.S. congressmen, senators, a British parliamentarian, a former U.S. Treasury secretary, clergymen, and scholars.
In 2005, I had the privilege of attending the award ceremony in Washington, D.C., honoring Gary A. Haugen. Gary is the founder of International Justice Mission, a Christian human rights advocacy group. With support from a stable of lawyers, investigators, and government liaisons, Gary travels around the world to help victims of human trafficking, slavery, and sexual exploitation.
After receiving his law degree from the University of Chicago, Gary worked for a human rights group fighting government corruption and abuses in the Philippines. Later, in 1994, he headed a U.S. Department of Justice team charged with investigating the Rwandan genocide.
During one of his trips to that devastated country, Gary scanned a mass grave with thousands of machete-hacked corpses. Overwhelmed by the human tragedy, Gary wondered what one “white bread” boy from the California suburbs could do. As it turned out, more that most people could have imagined.
Gary and his team conducted field investigations and gathered evidence from among 100 graves sites in the region. They applied their legal expertise to develop strategies of securing reliable eyewitness testimony and bringing guilty parties to justice -- skills and tools that Gary realized were sorely absent in the existing overseas relief groups.
The experience convicted Gary to found IJM in 1997 and put his expertise to work for the victims of injustice worldwide. It was, and is, a formidable undertaking.
Today, as in the time of Wilberforce, slavery is an invisible evil in a culture easily distracted by American Idol and the latest inanities of the Kardashians. Yet 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, 27 million people are enslaved around the world -- more than the sum total of victims during five centuries of European slave trade.
It is estimated that up 800,000 persons -- half of whom are children -- are trafficked across their nation’s borders each year for the commercial sex and forced labor industries. And that does not include those trafficked within their country. The story of “Maira” is typical: Continue reading here.
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