International Justice Mission is running a new program for Christians across Canada that are interested in helping fight for justice and freedom for those enslaved.
Joash Thomas is the National Director of Mobilization and Advocacy for International Justice Mission (IJM) Canada.
"We primarily focus on countries with weaker justice systems in need of strengthening," says Thomas. "By God's grace Canada has a functioning justice system. In most countries we operate in the world, there is no 9-1-1. If you're poor, if you're a woman, if you're a child and you've experienced sexual violence in slavery or trafficking, the justice system isn't strong enough to give them justice. Those are the places in the world that we focus on."
IJM works with local authorities in 24 program offices in 14 countries to combat slavery, violence against women and children, and police abuse of power against people who are poor.
"The country I was born and raised in, India, is the world's largest population of people in slavery," says Thomas. "I didn't know this despite being born there."
There are currently over 40 million women, men, and children caught in some form of human trafficking today.
"Just to give you a sense of how big the problem of impunity and injustice is in these countries, in Bolivia, for example, you're statistically more likely to slip in the bathroom and die than ever be convicted in a court of law for abusing a woman or a child. In Southeast Asia, you're statistically more likely to get struck by lightning and die than be convicted in a court of law for trafficking. Those are the justice systems we hope to fix and strengthen."
IJM's vision by 2030 is to protect 500 million people from ever being enslaved or subjected to violence across the globe.
"Joash and I have been working on a project for the last six months," says David Pollendine, the National Director for Development and Growth for IJM Canada. "We're calling it justice discipleship training. The idea is that we can work with the local church and share some of the things that we're doing in the field. Not just look to the field but what are some of the learnings from that, that we can do in the local community."
Part of the training is looking to the Bible for the definition of justice, according to Pollendine.
"It's developing a heart for mission, a heart for the global church and needs, but also being able to do that in our community as well. It's a resource we'll be opening this up to many churches across Canada."
The ministry is thrilled to share each story and time they are able to help survivors get out of slavery or bondage.
"We have some amazing survivors," says Pollendine. "When you look at their lives, see what they've been through and where they are now and what they're doing, it gives you hope that an individual can be transformed by the gospel and good practice. Then to see how these survivors now are leading the call to their governments to address the issues of trafficking and slavery. The government is listening to what they're saying."
Some of the work IJM does is facing incredible and dark injustices. Thomas shares how he stays hopeful doing this work.
"For me, it's the spiritual disciplines we have," says Thomas. "Every staff person across our global organization has to take 30 minutes in the morning for personal stillness and 30 minutes for corporate prayer. I would say this is what gives us the joy to keep going every single day. We have to come up for air. The most joyful places I've ever been are the field offices, where our colleagues get together, pray every day and have joy and laughter despite the really difficult things they see and walk through."