For the past couple weeks, I have been referencing Gary Haugen’s new book, The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence. Gary Haugen is the president of the International Justice Mission (IJM). “IJM is an international human rights agency that supports the world’s largest corps of local, indigenous advocates providing direct service to impoverished victims of violent abuse and oppressions in the developing world (xii).” The introduction and first few chapters of the book stopped me in my tracks. Gary eloquently tells stories of injustices that daily go unpunished in the undeveloped world and I struggled trying to put myself in those circumstances. What would it be like for me to constantly live in a state of fear? What would it be like for me, as a mother, to feel absolutely helpless in providing the protection that my daughter needs?
The poor in the undeveloped world do not have to wonder about these concerns. They already know that their lives are at risk, they are not considered valuable and no one really cares what happens to them. If they possess a little extra money, they may be able to bribe their way to make it through another day of fear, but more often than not, they are daily confronted with the realities of murder, rape, trafficking, unjustified detentions and other forms of abuse and exploitation. What’s worst? The police are not their friends and the justice system does not work for them simply because they are poor.
What is the Locust Effect? “The Locust Effect is the surprising story of how a plague of lawless violence is destroying two dreams that the world deeply cherishes: the dream to end global poverty and to secure the most fundamental human rights for the poor (xiv)…the world overwhelmingly does not know that endemic to being poor is a vulnerability to violence, or the way violence is right now, catastrophically crushing the global poor (xi).”
The way our world works, poor people—by virtue of their poverty—are not only vulnerable to hunger, disease, homelessness, illiteracy, and a lack of opportunity; they are also vulnerable to violence. Violence is as much part of what it means to be poor as being hungry, sick, homeless, or jobless. In fact, as we shall see, violence is frequently the problem that poor people are most concerned about. It is one of the core reasons they are poor in the first place, and one of the primary reasons they stay poor. Indeed, we will simply never be able to win the battle against extreme poverty unless we address it (43).
When faced with this reality, it is important for Christians in the West to understand that unchecked violence is undercutting many of the other good efforts—like providing education, clean water, food, housing, social programs, work opportunities, and even sharing the gospel—to end extreme global poverty. Therefore, addressing the violence against those living in extreme poverty must be a part of our conversations, our prayers, and the efforts we support. “If we can’t overcome the locust effect, nothing else good people do to help the poor will be truly sustainable (110).”
Violence is perpetrated by humans, it is “simply a result of stronger neighbors harming weaker (45).” The good news is that this violence can be stopped, and this is where The Locust Effect offers us hope! After sharing the evolution of broken criminal justice systems in the United States, France, and Japan, Gary presents several “projects of hope” that are working to bring about real change to this culture of runaway violence. These projects are being initiated by the International Justice Mission and other great organizations. They take the necessary risks to train legal personnel; confront the corruption of police and others in the criminal justice system; infiltrate the system with courageous reformers; raise the expectations, trust, and accountability of citizens in the community; while improving the communication necessary to address the community needs.
What does the Bible say about these issues addressed in The Locust Effect? As I read The Locust Effect, I have been reading through the book of Proverbs (NASB translation). In doing so, I found myself putting a #LE hashtag (for Locust Effect) in the margins of my Bible. Here are just a few of the passages that resonated in my heart:
Prov 15:31 – “He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, but he who is gracious to the needy honors Him.”
Prov 17:5 – “He who mocks the poor taunts his Maker, He who rejoices at calamity will not go unpunished.”
Prov 21:13 – “He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be answered.”
Prov 17:23 – “A wicked man receives a bribe from the bosom to pervert the ways of justice.”
Prov 21:15 – “The exercise of justice is joy for the righteous, but is terror to the workers of iniquity.”
Prov 22:22 – “Do not rob the poor because he is poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate.”
Prov 14:20 – “The poor is hated even by his neighbor, but those who love the rich are many.”
How can we take back the years the locust have eaten? There are a few things you can do:
1. Read this book and check out the tools available on the official website: http://www.thelocusteffect.com/
2. “Raise your voice to ensure people around the world can live in safety and security.” Sign the petition: http://www.thelocusteffect.com/petition
3. Support the work of IJM through prayer, giving, advocacy, and other efforts. www.ijm.org
4. Check out Griselda’s story: http://bit.ly/1gVamt7 She is a child born in the image of God. It is important that we put names and stories to these statistics. Watch more stories on the International Justice Mission YouTube channel.
5. Share this information and start the conversations with other Christians, especially Christian leaders.
Will you ignore the violence? Can we continue to dismiss the 2.5 billion people living in extreme poverty?
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2014