Monday, January 26, 2009

Gary Haugen of IJM in New Yorker

Gary Haugen, the president of International Justice Mission (an organization that I've written about before here on the blog and one that our church supports), was the subject of a full article in The New Yorker magazine last week. The reporter for the magazine does a great job covering Haugen's work, but is obviously conflicted about how she feels about Haugen's organization, shifting from admiration for their work to suspicion about their evangelical identity. Here are some money quotes from the article...
Haugen, who was educated at Harvard and at the University of Chicago Law School, is a forty-five-year-old evangelical Christian who believes that Christians have generally ignored the Biblical injunction to “seek justice, protect the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” In 1997, he created the International Justice Mission to offer legal services to the poor in developing countries. Haugen believes that the biggest problem on earth is not too little democracy, or too much poverty, or too few anti-retroviral AIDS medicines, but, rather, an absence of proper law enforcement. Three hundred Christian lawyers, criminal investigators, social workers, and advocates at Haugen’s mission now work with local law-enforcement officials in twelve countries on behalf of individuals in need: bonded laborers, children who have been sold into prostitution, widows who have had their land seized, poor people who, like Mutungi, languish in jail for crimes they did not commit.

His office, in Crystal City, Virginia, resembles the corporate law firms across the Potomac: marble desks, dark wood, and a willed air of humorlessness which, he says, “is intended to ooze ‘serious.’ ” Few law firms, however, begin each workday by assembling for thirty minutes of silence and “prayerful preparation.” Employees who arrive at the office between eight-thirty and nine o’clock find the door locked, and a sign suggesting that they go get a cup of coffee. (Another prayer session is held at eleven.)

But Haugen is not that easy to pigeonhole. He is fiercely critical of Christians whose moral rhetoric is not backed up with action. He does not speak a foreign language, but he is proud that ninety per cent of the mission’s international staff are nationals of the countries where they work. And though he insists that the mission hire only Christian lawyers, investigators, and administrators—the group’s Web site asks job applicants to include “a statement of faith,” in which they describe their “spiritual disciplines” and their place of worship—the mission takes cases without inquiring about the creed of the potential client.

Let's thank God today for the declaration that Haugen's work is making about the heart of Jesus Christ toward those facing injustice.

1 comment:

Jonathan P. Lamb said...
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