Good News About Injustice: Written by - Gary Haugen the Founder of The International Justice Mission

Testimony Tim Grainger Good News About Injustice - Book

A must read for every lawyer, law student and church leader! Interspersed with individual stories of specific abuse, this book chronicles the vision behind International Justice Mission's work and seeks to tackle tragic injustices with practical insight, answering tough questions regarding the nature of injustice and the Biblical mandate for Christians to confront it.

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The following is a book review - from Harvard Human Rights Journal, Volume 12, 1999a 

Good News About Injustice, by Gary Haugen, is a refreshing resource for the hope-parched human rights intellectual and a warm welcome to newcomers. The enterprises of renewal and initiation of interest in human rights issues are each immense challenges in their own right, but Haugen makes an unlikely effort to address both. Because his targeted audience consists of religious communities, he must address a significant obstacle in each prong of his endeavor. First, by virtue of its global character, human rights is a pluralistic and multi-cultural study. As a result, religious moralizing tends to receive little credence. Secondly, religious devotees seem increasingly preoccupied with a narrow circle of domestic policy issues: family values, community safety, and church-state economic issues. Moreover, some of the most media-prominent religious figures have a history of apathy at best and antagonism at worst to the international human rights community.

Haugen does not claim to resolve these tensions. As a result, he is able to achieve some surprising successes. Backed by data that confirms a widespread search for foundational values, Haugen proposes broadening the basis for human rights engagement. He makes a compelling case for the significant assets that faith-based communities, if mobilized, might bring to the common struggle for human rights. The potential resources that Haugen identifies are worthy considerations for all who believe that the cause of human rights is an all-hands-on-deck proposition.

Haugen suggests two main reasons why the contemporary human rights movement should make a serious appraisal of its value base at the end of the twentieth century. First, the demanding and frequently costly struggle for human rights in the world requires powerful value commitments—and many people's most powerful value commitments flow from their religious convictions. By encouraging the involvement of those who possess highly motivating spiritual values, the human rights cause can diversify participation and enrich the conversation regarding the reason for its existence. As Haugen suggests, who would not have wanted the spiritual leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., William Wilberforce, Archbishop Tutu, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, or Jimmy Carter as active participants during the human rights struggles of their day?

Secondly, as the human rights community celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it must take seriously the assault that has been leveled on the moral universality of these principles during the last decade of this century. It was the debates at the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights that led the New York Times to comment: "[s]o deep are divisions over the universality of human rights, a concept which some belittle as excessively 'Western,' that delegates could not agree on condemning torture in their draft declaration."[1] While that pronouncement may have been a bit alarmist, it does not take much imagination to understand the instability of universal moral principles in the postmodern era.

Haugen does not pretend to proffer an intellectually palatable coherence for all spiritually motivated engagement. But among his own faith-based motivations is the hope that a more meaningful dialogue will overcome continued disintegration. Haugen clearly cherishes his faith, but neither he nor the author of the Foreward, Anglican theologian Dr. John Stott, pulls any punches in their challenge to their own community. As Stott writes, "[h]ow is it that so many of us staunch evangelical people have never seen, let alone faced, the barrage of biblical texts about injustice? Why are we so often guilty of selective indignation?"[2]

As Henry Mayer's recent celebrated biography of William Lloyd Garrison and the abolition movement has demonstrated,[3] a challenging voice of conviction and action that flows from the best of our religious traditions can be a powerful force for positive social change. The human rights movement would be well served by the strengthening of such a voice.

If such a strengthening does follow from Haugen's efforts, the next question is whether this newly motivated community will bring anything of value to the struggle. Haugen suggests that religious communities have much to contribute. Most measurably, his research indicates that international religious ties create the world's most extensive network of observation and potential information sharing regarding human rights abuses. Haugen's survey of religious agencies representing more than 60,000 international workers reveals that all of these agencies serve in communities that are currently suffering human rights abuses.

Haugen demonstrates the nexus of intellectual possibilities and pragmatic intervention. Haugen leads the International Justice Mission (IJM), a faith-based human rights agency. Success stories from the records of this agency, which has addressed bonded child labor, forced prostitution, illegal detention, and police abuse, give substance to the hopes Haugen wants his readers to have. All of the cases handled by IJM have been referred from the network of international religious workers. This makes for Haugen's most compelling moment. In contrast to the crippling debate looming in the human rights community and the sidelined religious believers who have never walked in this arena, Gary Haugen offers evidence that new steps can be taken in the right direction.

Haugen has a track record of being in the right place at the right time in the human rights struggle. In 1985, as a recent graduate from Harvard College, he was involved in conciliatory efforts in South Africa. Following completion of his J.D. at the University of Chicago, he authored Impunity, a book on human rights violations in the Philippines, for the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. Subsequently, he served as a litigator for the Police Misconduct Task Force of the U.S. Department of Justice. Then, in 1994, he was Officer in Charge of the U.N.'s genocide investigation in Rwanda. Now, as the human rights community comes to a critical place in defining its foundations, Haugen again stands to make a meaningful and measurable contribution with this book.

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