(From the October - December 2017 issue of VOX.)
A dynamic partnership between International Justice Mission and the Church of Ireland Youth Department has produced “The Justice Sessions” - a five-week series of interactive Bible studies for youth groups. At the launch of the new resource at Summer Madness, IJM’s Chloe Fulton, CIYD Youth Officer Simon Henry and Brent van der Linde, Assistant Minister at Stormont Presbyterian Church shared more.
Chloe: International Justice Mission is the world’s largest anti-slavery organisation, which was started 20 years ago. I stumbled across IJM while I was at university studying law and I fell in love! We are passionate about seeing people set free from violence and we are passionate about seeing the local church fighting for justice and freedom. Today we are working across the world tackling sex trafficking in places like Bolivia, Guatemala and Cambodia, fighting cases of land-grabbing in Uganda and freeing people from forced labour and slavery in places like Ghana, Thailand and India.
Simon: When the opportunity came up to go to India and to see what the IJM team is doing there, I thought, “This will be great, I’ll go there for that week and we’ll create a resource for youth leaders.” Sometimes, even for me as a youth worker, justice was a side issue but actually if you look at the Bible and how Jesus looked at people you see that God is a God of justice.
That week in Bangalore, God twisted my entire life and my thinking. We met 40 staff members. It is so hard to describe how important their work is. It blew me away. These are guys who have two or three degrees to their names but because of their amazing faith in Jesus, they have decided to work in this environment. They are working to free people from slave labour and from trafficking.
Usually, I’m in my wee Church of Ireland bubble. Their passion challenged me as a Christian worker. Slavery was made illegal in India in 1970 in India but it still happens on a massive scale. They are working against the caste system. Every day they get together between 9am and 10am to pray. You can see God moving.
In our own churches and towns we can make a difference by prayer. I saw that in Bangalore - their whole world revolves around prayer. I took that home with me. If you are up against a wall as a Christian that makes you dig deeper. We are not really persecuted here - we’re just a little bit upset at times. They are really up against it and they have to dig deep into God.
Brent: Lots of things about the trip touched me. They are doing justice work because they want to see people set free. They want to see everybody flourishing. I have been in Northern Ireland for 16 years, and this impacted me. Can I really say that I am in love with the people of Northern Ireland so that I want to see them flourish?
We have a choice and an obligation to do something. It is not just about listening and accepting what is happening. From my perspective as a minister, we want to make ourselves feel uncomfortable! It is biblical. God requires it of us.
Simon: The very least we can do is to pray, not just for our own churches but for the work of IJM. We have everything we want at hand. These guys are up against it.
Chloe: We don’t want “The Justice Sessions” to be an exclusive resource for those who have a passion for these things. We want everyone to know Micah 6:8 and to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly. For a lot of people that verse is overwhelming. What does that mean in the 21st century? We want to help answer that question for young people. It is not an added extra but a call that God has placed on our lives.
In theBible justice and righteousness appear together. To do justice is to put the wrongs right - to make sure that those who have suffered injustice are in a place of safety and that those who perpetuate injustice are held accountable. Righteousness creates a safe place so that the injustices do not occur.
We want to set the scene. What does justice mean? The five youth group sessions look into the biblical definition and there are some challenges about putting that into action. Each session finishes with prayer points and stories from IJM.
There is an optional 24-hour justice experience. This is a cool resource with different activities hour-by-hour and practical things that can be done within your own community.
Getting “The Justice Sessions” for your Youth Group
The Justice Sessions is designed as a study guide to be used by youth leaders, so we are offering 1-2 free copies per youth group. If possible (depending on availability and geographical region) IJM speakers are willing to lead one of these sessions with the youth group. Youth leaders can get their copy from Chloe (firstname.lastname@example.org) or from the CIYD office (email@example.com). Find out more about International Justice Mission at www.ijmuk.org or through their social media accounts.