The first American pioneers were a scrappy, unfortunate lot. For emigrants settling the unknown frontier, there were plenty of very real dangers to those who embarked on the journey; people did not make this trek for kicks. Other than the lustful adventurer or risk-taking businessman, most who left were desperate for new lives, drawn by the allure of free land under the Homestead Act of 1862. Poorer than the dirt they would soon be tilling, these hopefuls believed that with diligence and hard work, fortune would turn in their favor. They staked their plots, sowed seeds and, with a few months of favorable weather, were encouraged by growing, luscious crops. Soon, the farmers would reap a plentiful harvest.
But no one anticipated the nightmare arriving at noonday. A dark shadow descended from the sky, and in mere minutes, droves of locusts descended upon the land and decimated the farmers’ crops. Almost nothing was salvageable, as one farmer quipped, “They ate everything but the mortgage.” After departing from familiarity and venturing into a new life, after all the grueling manual labor and menial farm preparations – the sunrise to sunset workdays, the aching backs, the lack of resources –, after the hopeful expectation of a rich harvest season, these pioneers found themselves in a more dire situation than before they moved west.
Today marks the official launch of The Locust Effect by Gary Haugen, president and CEO of International Justice Mission (IJM). With it, the conversation on our approach poverty is about to change. Haugen compares the locusts of the American frontier with a much greater pest present and thriving today – namely the bullies of everyday violence. In the stream of humanitarian efforts toward those living in poverty, a broken leak is significantly reducing the effectiveness of our help. Like locusts destroying unprotected crop, those of power take advantage of the helplessness of the poor. A widow in Zambia cannot utilize donated farm tools if she is a victim of land grabbing. Girls who endure regular sexual assault are not benefiting from their school scholarships. Legal entitlements to the poor in Thailand are of no use if a birth certificate was never issued. A micro-loan entrepreneur cannot run a successful business when he and his family are kidnapped into a brick factory and work fourteen hours a day as modern day slaves.
Everyday violence – this perpetual cloud of fear hovering over the unprotected – is the poor’s constant reality. In America, laws are generally enforced; police seek to protect citizens. Sadly, for the majority of the developing world, this is not the case. When it is more likely for a rapist to be struck by lightning or slip in the bath tub and die than be imprisoned for his crime, impunity is rampant. In The Locust Effect, Haugen provides a few facts and statistics, but he mainly invites readers to discover the stories of regular poor people. Rather than violence restraining the oppressed from lives of freedom, it is time for us to fix the leak in the system and begin restraining the hand of violence. Fortunately, we are dealing with simple bullies who lack courage. When they realize that there are repercussions for their actions, they back down. Beyond rescue and aftercare for victims, IJM works to imprison perpetrators and create structural transformation within the justice system. Their vision is “to rescue thousands, protect millions and prove that justice for the poor is possible.” The exciting part is that IJM is showing that it is possible, and it is happening.
If any of this motivates you or catches your interest, I invite you to join me in three easy actions you can take today.
First, with the launch of The Locust Effect, you can buy the book*. Not only will all proceeds benefit the mission of IJM, but this week only, for every book bought, a generous IJM supporter will donate $20 to help bring justice to the poor. The goal is to make it on the New York Times Bestseller list – not to brag about book sales, but to gain more credibility and attention behind the concept of protecting the poor from everyday violence.
Second, read the book. Take these stories to heart. Preparing for the launch of The Locust Effect has been the predominate focus of my marketing internship at IJM thus far. Even though I may already know the ideas behind The Locust Effect, I will be joining you in this endeavor. I have heard it’s not the lightest reading (What?! Reading about the tough lives of poor people isn’t for your coffee break? No!), but it is enlightening and important. Together, we can learn more about the problem of everyday violence and begin a more global, united conversation on changing our approach to poverty.
Third, please sign the petition urging the UN to protect the poor from violence as it decides its 2015 long-term goals. It is short, and you can opt out of receiving e-mail updates if you choose.
All of these steps will help you easily engage and begin to join the team of those committed to protecting the poor from violence. This is an exciting time, and momentum for a tidal wave of change is building. You can be a part of it.
“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” -Isaiah 1:17
*If you buy more than one book, please buy them from somewhere other than Amazon.com, such as Barnes & Noble. No matter how many books bought at once on Amazon, the whole purchase only counts as one book bought on the bestseller list.