To paraphrase the preacher in Ecclesiastes, there is no end to the writing of books about the causes and solutions to global poverty. The explanations for why some countries are much poorer than others range from geography to the impact of using chopsticks on manual dexterity. I’m not kidding.
But a recent book shines a much-needed light on what, in hindsight, is an obvious contributor to the problem: the endemic violence that plagues poor communities.
The book is “The Locust Effect” by Gary Haugen and Victor Boutros. Haugen is the founder and president of the one of the most effective Christian organizations I know, International Justice Mission. Boutros is a federal prosecutor who specializes in human trafficking.
According to the authors, efforts to end poverty in the developing world are undermined by a “plague of hidden violence.” Like the plagues of locusts that have tormented humans throughout much of their history, this “plague” consumes what it has taken people months and even years to achieve.
Billions of people around the world are vulnerable to being beaten, raped, robbed and even enslaved on an almost daily basis. Imagine going to school wondering if you were going to be assaulted. Or trying to farm while being afraid that someone with more power than you could take your land away from you.
Under these circumstances, escaping poverty, which is difficult under the best of circumstances, is next-to-impossible. Yet these are the conditions under which much of the world’s poor live.
For the vast majority of Americans, the police live up to the motto “Protect and Serve.” For people in much of the developing world, the police are predators who behave like the locusts of the book’s title.
Even when the police aren’t predators themselves, the criminal justice system in much of the developing world is so broken that “most of the poor people in the world live outside the protection of the law.”
What Haugen calls “the yawning gap between the justice systems of the haves and the have-nots,” is “not merely” the result of income inequality, but a cause of it.
This should be obvious, but evidently it isn’t. The UN’s Millennium Development Goals, a kind of “blueprint to guide the world fight against poverty,” didn’t even mention violence and unstable, ineffective, or corrupt justice systems.
Haugen’s and Boutros’s “The Locust Effect” is a wake-up call—one that Christians should heed. Not only because the poor are our neighbors and, in many instances, our brethren, but also because the promotion of justice is part of the Church’s God-given vocation. As N.T. Wright has written “justice is to human society what flourishing order is to the garden.” “Structures of governance, making and implementing laws [and] deciding cases” are part of the way we “bring a balance to God’s world.”
If it seems like a daunting task, allow me to make two suggestions: first, please go to the book’s website—we’ll provide you with a link at Breakpoint.org. And please sign the petition Haugen has created to urge the UN to protect the poor from violence. Then, please consider donating and praying for the work of groups like theInternational Justice Mission. We cannot all be on the front lines like IJM, but we can sure support them.
Loving your neighbor as yourself requires no less. Folks, it’s all through scripture—we are blessed to be a blessing. And those of us who’ve been given a voice, who live in a country like the United States, have been given that voice for those who have no voice. Let’s use it for them.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Publication date: March 6, 2014