Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has honored Gary Haugen of the faith-based International Justice Mission for his successful efforts in combating modern-day slavery. Haugen, president and founder of IJM, recently spoke with The Christian Post about the success of his organization – much of which he believes is grounded in the Christian faith.
"I think for IJM our faith has just been very helpful in providing the internal strength to actually be able to do this work," said Haugen, who was honored as a TIP Report Hero by Clinton last Tuesday.
Haugen, along with a group of Christian lawyers, founded the IJM in 1997 with the goal of manifesting Christ's passion for justice through providing assistance to impoverished victims of human trafficking, oppression, and abuse.
"We wanted to follow God in that work and we wanted to encourage other Christians to engage the work of justice in the world who might otherwise not be aware, had not grown up in, or had not been raised in the biblical teaching of justice," Haugen told CP.
IJM uses a four-pronged approach in its anti-trafficking efforts, focusing on relief, justice, long-term aftercare, and structural transformation within justice systems to help combat abuses. IJM has a staff of over 400 employees – the vast majority of whom come from the countries and communities where the organization works.
The pragmatic and community-based approach has been fundamental to the organization's success at its anti-trafficking and rehabilitation efforts, but Haugen also points out that faith has been key to providing IJM the necessary courage and strength to not lose hope in the challenging fight against the grave injustice of human trafficking.
"The struggle against slavery is the struggle against violence. It's a struggle against aggressive forces of evil that can be very intimidating." Haugen told CP. "In the midst of that fight there's exhaustion, frustration, defeat, sacrifice, and loss. So one really needs to find the internal spiritual capacity to actually continue such a fight."
Beyond giving employees courage and strength, Haugen believes that with the approach and priorities of the human rights organization being fundamentally derived from the teachings of Christ, IJM is able to extend meaningful love to people from all over the world and of all faiths who have been victims of human trafficking.
"While we find community as a team and support as a community of Christian faith, our great joy is to be able to do the work of justice in collaboration with others who may not share that faith and in service to all kinds of communities regardless of their own faith," Haugen said. "We find great community and strength in our faith together and great joy in serving others who may not share that faith and to serve for the benefit of others."
For Haugen, a prominent human rights lawyer who was worked with the United Nations and the U.S. Department of Justice, being honored as a TIP Report Hero by Secretary Clinton is a positive step that demonstrates to the world that the issue of human trafficking is a priority and concern in the country's global agenda.
"It's a way of saying that the victims of slavery, abuse, and human trafficking (that) in spite of their poverty and in spite of their marginalization they matter to the American people and they matter to U.S. foreign policy," Haugen told CP.
Last week, the U.S. State Department released the 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report detailing worldwide governmental efforts in combating the modern-day slave trade and rating countries based on their ability to reach minimum trafficking standards accepted by the international community. The report found that 42,000 individuals were rescued from human trafficking in 2011, but millions more remained stuck in a life of forced labor, bondage, and prostitution – unable or afraid to escape their traffickers.