International Justice Mission's covert ministry becomes very public
In 1999, Christianity Today covered the work of Gary Haugen and his International Justice Mission (IJM), which had then been doing case work against sexual slavery for a year. Still, what a year it had been: In 1998, the ministry had freed more than 700 people, largely through covertly infiltrating, investigating, and documenting abuses around the world.
Five years later, International Justice Mission has become a media focus, with Forbes specifically profiling the group and Dateline NBC cooperating with IJM on a major piece on Cambodia's child sex market.
But that's not all: Four weeks ago, NPR's Morning Edition gave much attention to IJM's work in a piece on the U.S. government's crackdown on American sex tourists, as does this week's New York Times Magazine cover story on sex trafficking (Times reporter Peter Landesman talked about his story yesterday on NPR's Fresh Air, and Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has also been reporting on Cambodia's sex slavery)
For a good look at the kind of work IJM does, check out the Dateline NBC report. The undercover, secret videotape work included in that report—of pimps, of victims, and of customer/rapists—along with a raid that includes the arrest of pimps and freeing of young girls, is the kind of thing that IJM is largely known for. Almost every time you hear "Dateline" in the report, mentally add, "working with IJM."
Part of Haugen's work is to go after American sex tourists, not just the pimps. And the Dateline report also includes a fine example of this: an IJM investigator caught American radiologist Jerrold Albom on video bragging about coming to Cambodia to have sex with girls as young as 14. Dateline reporters using the tape confronted Albom in Guam, and now stateside medical centers are promising that his radiology days are over. Dateline says that federal agents are investigating Albom, but no charges have been filed.
Missing from all of these reports is the faith that motivates Haugen and other IJM workers, though Dateline notes that it's a "faith-based organization" and Forbes has a brief mention of Haugen's church, adding that the "group does not preach." Haugen in fact works with proclamation missionaries to find out about cases of slavery, and sees his work as complementary to theirs.
American Christians should have the same approach to justice ministry as they do to missions, he said back in our 1999 article: "You can either go, you can send, or you can pray. … God's first step in enabling the body of Christ to seek justice for the oppressed has been to break down the isolation of the vulnerable by deploying his witness into their communities. It's fair to say that within a stone's throw of just about every victim of oppression in the world there is a Christian worker whom God has placed in the community to share the love of Jesus."
As more Americans are awakened to the horrors of the global sex trade (see also our November 2003 article on the subject), and as pressure mounts on the American government to take more action against this form of slavery, expect International Justice Mission to continue its difficult work on the front lines
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