This is a little longer than usual, but bear with me– I promise it’s worth it. And there’s a giveaway at the end!
At a rock quarry near Chennai, India a few years ago, a man named Gopinath and his wife spent long days breaking boulders into gravel, working desperately to pay off a “debt” to the owner of the quarry. But no matter how hard they worked, they could never earn enough back from him to pay off their debt. Most of their money went to buying food from him, and they weren’t allowed to leave the quarry– not to get food, not to make more money. Gopinath and his wife eventually learned they were, in fact, actual modern-day slaves.
Nearby was a subsidized school where Gopinath’s children were never allowed to go, and a hospital set up to treat poor families like his, that he and his wife weren’t allowed to go to. As for going to the police, another rock quarry slave put it this way:
“We don’t have to go to the police. The owner pays the police to come to us– to beat us.”
I don’t write much about work, so you may not know that I’ve written pretty often about international aid. Our government pours billions of dollars each year into every kind of program imaginable– schools, wells, crop programs, trainings for farmers, even programs to increase citizen involvement in local and regional government. All really good ideas. And so often, they don’t work.
I don’t mean that as a political statement. I really wish that money worked the way it was intended to. But report after report and anecdote after anecdote shows much of the time, there’s a hitch in the program. The story of the slaves in India is just one example of this, but it is a powerful illustration of why our aid money is not getting at the root of the problem of poverty and injustice. As I cover stories like these, it breaks my heart.
You probably do know my love for International Justice Mission and their work of bringing rescue, justice and restoration to the oppressed and enslaved– often the very people these aid programs are supposed to help.
A new book (it came out today!!) by IJM President Gary Haugen and federal prosecutor Victor Boutros so powerfully addresses this gap between aid money and actual change that has been weighing on my heart since I first started writing about the topic.
The book is called The Locust Effect, named after the biggest plague of locusts in American history, which in 1875 destroyed the livelihoods of the families who had settled the midwest. They ate all the crops– even ate the wool off of sheep as they went. The “plague of everyday violence,” Haugen and Boutros argue, is much like that swarm of locusts: no matter how hard a family has worked or how much aid has been poured into their village, it can’t stop the violence that takes all of that away, often irreparably.
Much of the book is heartbreaking. The bottom line: Justice systems in the developing world are paid by the rich to protect the rich and ignore the poor. Protection by police and judges costs more than the poor have. As a result, bonded labor (modern slavery), police brutality, unjust imprisonment, land seizure, sex trafficking and sexual violence rob them of their livelihoods without anyone to answer a 9-1-1 phone call. And 4 billion people in the world live under these broken and corrupt justice systems.
These are heavy stories. They can be crushing. In so many, there is no happy ending. It’s not an easy read.
But near the end, hope comes in. They talk about how it is possible to build better justice systems that protect their people instead of oppressing them — and it has been done. One example is in Cebu, Philippines, where after four years of IJM partnering with local law enforcement to fix a broken justice system, the availability of children sold for sex dropped 79%. That is real hope.
If this tugs at your heart in any way, I so encourage you to read the book. It needs to get out there. We need to change how we do aid and justice so that we get at the root of the problem and actually save the poor from their poverty.
The giveaway: The awesome part of that? IJM has allowed me to give a copy of the book away to one commenter at random. Leave a comment below and at the end of the week, I will choose someone to receive a copy of The Locust Effect. No strings attached; you don’t have to write about it or anything, although I’d love if you chose to. Just read it and allow these stories to stir your soul.
During this week, the book’s launch week, a generous friend of IJM will give $20 to IJM for every copy of the book sold. So spending $20 on the book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble is equivalent to giving $20 directly to IJM to help fight violence against the poor.
This would fund eight IJM rescue operations and rescue hundreds.
All author royalties go to IJM’s work as well.
Amazon is already temporarily sold out (wohoo!), so try Barnes and Noble. They are carrying the book in many of their actual stores, so if you’re near one, you can get it there or online.
As long as this blog post is, I only just gave you a snippet of the book. There’s more here.