Thursday, March 21, 2013

Slow Justice

IJM, International Justice Mission, Nakul Bera, justiceby Rebekah Mays

On Friday I clicked a link on International Justice Mission’s website: “IJMKolkata: Landmark Convictions Against Five Notorious Traffickers.” It took a moment for me to realize what I was reading, but there it was in print—Nakul Bera, one of the most violent criminals IJM has ever encountered, was tried and found guilty.

For those who don’t know what IJM is, it’s an international human rights organization that brings rescue to victims of violent oppression. They are a group of human rights workers, cooperating with local law enforcement in several countries to bring aid to the abused and put criminals behind bars. I was an IJM communications intern in 2011, and we talked about the Nakul Bera case quite a bit.

He was a brothel owner in Kolkata whose cruelty was beyond what even the most experienced field staffers had witnessed. He raped girls himself by way of initiating them to their new home, and if they refused to see a client, he beat and tortured them. One victim told IJM she had to see twenty-five customers a day. I remember being assigned to read up on this and other cases—I had to do the research slowly because it was so psychologically disturbing.

While I was relieved to see that IJM had at last secured convictions for this sick man and for four other criminals, my heart was heavy. I was happy for the IJM staffers whose years of prayer and grueling legal work finally paid off. I was thrilled for the little girls, who no longer have to walk in fear of their abuser.

But I was grieved at my own hardness of heart that let me forget about the victims, and about this man who had destroyed so many lives. I spent my summer with IJM feeling inspired, like I was making a difference, but over time I let that energy and anger over the injustices I’d seen fizzle out. If IJM had given up as easily as I did, Nakul Bera would still be doing unspeakable acts to the innocent.

Why is it so easy to go through our day-to-day lives half-heartedly, to turn a blind eye to the hurting and the abused? Why is it so easy to read such stories or come across injustice and have no reaction, simply moving on to the next distraction? It’s not a mystery: We like things neat and streamlined. We don’t like to be inconvenienced or unsettled. We don’t like our boats rocked. Comfort is key.

Nakul Bera, brothel, sex trafficking, justice, injustice
Nakul Bera's brothel
You may have heard the famous Edmund Burke quote, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” We hear these sayings all the time, in sermons, in inspirational speeches, and in the books and articles we read. But I’m trying to think of something I’ve done for others recently, something that has contributed to the kingdom vision to “vindicate the orphan and the oppressed.” I’ve posted a couple of social justice-related links on my Facebook profile lately. I’ve donated money to good causes. But when I think about something beyond that which has required real action, I’m drawing a blank.

The good news is that when we do take a step, our efforts to pursue justice aren’t pointless. Just look at what IJM has accomplished through God’s favor, and at the impact the organization has had on so many lives. It takes perseverance, and as I know too well, it’s tempting to quit before our work is done. Determination, however, is rewarded.

For some of us, our biggest chance at changing the world isn’t necessarily as dramatic as IJM’s work, as crucial as that is. Our impact could be through some small interaction, saying a kind word when it would be easier to stay quiet. These undertakings can still test our boundaries. But instead of feeling helpless in the face of huge injustice, we can start where we are. When we do, we ourselves end up changing, becoming less self-absorbed and more sensitive to the needs of others —and maybe that’s our biggest weapon. 

Rebekah Mays is a Barnard College graduate originally from Austin, Texas. She currently works and writes in New York City. You can find more of her writing on her blog Iced Spiced Chai or follow her on Twitter @smallbeks.

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