At Love Justice International, our mission is "sharing the love of Jesus Christ by fighting the world's greatest injustices." It stems from Christ's words that "whatever we do for the least of these" we do for Him. Thus, our work is to find and help the least of these—and to find and fight the world's greatest injustices.
It is an important, if understated, truth that we don't begin by knowing what the world's greatest injustices are, who among eight billion are truly the least of these, or where they can be found. It is no small task to begin with the whole world and narrow it down to those who need our help most. To achieve our mission, we intend for Love Justice International to be a community of people whose life's work is that search. For many years, many of us have been learning about world injustice, studying it, talking about it, having our minds enlightened and our hearts broken by the often muted cries of the oppressed. Human trafficking and children with no one to care for them are two of the most salient examples we have found so far. We have developed what we believe to be highly impactful strategies for addressing these two issues, which currently comprise the vast majority of our work.
But to accomplish our mission, our goal is to cultivate a shared understanding of the worst injustices—to find and face up to them. This series of articles called "The Light" is intended to illuminate the world's greatest injustices, to argue that they demand an urgency beyond everything else and that the "least of these" need our help more than those who are better off, and to counter the widely held idea that physical proximity or local or national identity is more important than actual need and impact potential in determining how we spend our moral effort. Our hope is to provide an unbiased account of the impact of these injustices and to alert you, the reader, of the atrocities you may wish to help address.
These articles highlight areas covered by our current work as well as some areas that are not. But they are in direct pursuit of our mission, as well as that of the Church and all who believe human beings are endowed by nature with rights that make them as precious as each of us, or those we love most.
The fact that people as valuable as those we love most are suffering under the world’s greatest injustices creates an urgency and debt of obligation against which none of us can truly stand. By the circumstance of where we are born, one set of people inherits all the comfort and affluence of the modern rich world, and another inherits the grief and hardships of the world's greatest injustices. That we were born here, and someone else was born there, has nothing to do with anything either side did or deserves.
It would be no less just if it were reversed. With no less injustice, I could have been born with no prospect to earn enough money to feed my family or send my children to school. The universe would be no less just if it were my child who was trafficked into slavery or my family who was not recognized as a citizen of any country. We could have been the ones who were born in a time and place where our rights were neither recognized nor protected by our government. This, we submit, is the only proper way to look at injustice.
We cannot rightly say it is "someone else's problem," while maintaining that it could just as easily have been our own problem. And we cannot rightly turn away from injustice and honestly maintain the belief that those who suffer under it are human beings who are as valuable as those we love most. It might just as easily have been so.
But I imagine I'd feel differently about the obligation of the other side to help if I or those I loved most inherited a life under these injustices.
With these thoughts in mind, let us turn and face up to some of the issues that we believe are the world's greatest injustices. Our task is made difficult because the statistics with which we must deal are not something our minds can relate to in the personal way that elucidates the preciousness of the individuals they describe—what we would feel if it was us or our loved ones, or even what a face, name, or story can make us feel. We can’t meet them face to face because statistics don’t have faces. But to truly face up to these realities, we must connect that appropriate reaction to the statistics that tell us that these issues are indeed real for so many real people.
To accomplish that, we must learn to think about the issues listed below with empathy—while reminding ourselves that the real people caught in these realities are just as precious as those we love most. It might have been, just as easily could have been, and it would be no less just if it were us.
Poverty - Ten percent of the world’s population lives on less than $1.90 per day. That is not merely a matter of not having a house, car, or computer, but more likely that your family shares a toothbrush and doesn't own a pair of shoes. You almost certainly lack electricity and have to spend several hours a week collecting wood to cook over an open fire. You likely lack access to an improved water supply to drink, cook, bathe, or brush your teeth. Lacking access to adequate sanitation, you likely have to relieve yourself in a field, or if you're lucky, a pit latrine. If your children don't die in childbirth or from poverty-related causes, they sleep on a dirt floor and likely don't go to school, and so have little chance to escape poverty themselves. They likely have to work in order to afford to live even in the way you do.
Hunger - Nine percent of the world's population suffers from severe food insecurity, which is characterized by feeling hungry but not eating or not eating for an entire day, due to a lack of resources. This results in stunted physical development, including brain development in children, and an increase in illness (up to 160 days per year) and death. You are likely almost always hungry and always eat the same thing—something cheap, high in carbohydrates, and low in nutrients.
Displaced People - Worldwide, 70.8 million people are displaced, meaning that they have fled their homes because of persecution, war, or violence. Thirty million are refugees, meaning that the situation they were trying to escape from was so bad that they not only fled the protection of their homes but crossed into a foreign country to get away. Leaving the protections of your home, you are a stranger to all, vulnerable to physical and sexual assault and abduction, and likely lacking adequate shelter, food, and healthcare.
Orphans and Vulnerable Children - Children are the world's most naturally vulnerable population. Worldwide, 17% are involved in child labor; 25% don't finish secondary school; and 21% of girls are married as children. According to UNICEF, there were 140 million orphans in 2015—6% of children under 18. Children, and orphans in particular, are especially vulnerable to many forms of exploitation including human trafficking, recruitment as child soldiers, child labor, and organized crime.
Human Trafficking - An estimated 40 million people are living in slavery today—more than any other time in history. A quarter of them are children. They are not free to refuse work, and so they are exploited in some of the most horrible ways imaginable.
War and Conflict - One in seven of the world's population lives in fragile or conflict-affected countries, and 68.5 million people are unable to live in their homes because of conflict. But interpersonal and gang violence causes nine times more deaths than war. In some places, urban violence kills more people than open warfare.
Discrimination Against Minorities - Most cultures around the world have practices that discriminate against minorities or disadvantaged groups, including discrimination based on race, ethnicity, caste, religion, disabilities, and sexual orientation. Women—though technically not a minority—are particularly oppressed by certain cultural practices around the world; 35% experience some form of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, and 200 million worldwide are victims of female genital mutilation.
Unfreedom - Approximately 36% of the world's population lives in countries classified by Freedom House as "Not Free." It is perhaps most difficult for those of us who enjoy the many goods that flower in the sunlight of freedom to understand all that this means for those hidden in the shadow of tyranny. Your rights are not protected by the government; you are not free to speak your mind; and you are subject to arbitrary arrest and detention without trial—especially if you try to do anything to improve your level of freedom or say anything about it.
Because those who speak out or fight for freedom disappear, it is very likely that you either are not aware of the existence of the freedoms you lack, or you are forced to keep silent. You learn to fall in line and to keep your head down, or you are killed or imprisoned. Your education, your business, your success in every endeavor may be tied less to your merits than to your ability and willingness to participate in this lie. You very likely are not allowed to follow the conviction of your conscience and reason in choosing your religion. You will be subject to higher rates of mental illness, lower levels of health, shorter life expectancy, and higher susceptibility to famine. It is difficult to sufficiently express how many other evils unfreedom produces and goods that it prevents; it is the ruination of hundreds of forms of justice. To give one salient example, when Robert Mugabe came to power in 1980, life expectancy at birth in Zimbabwe was nearly 60 years. In 2006, 26 years into his reign, it was 34 years for women and 37 for men.
Now, let us shed some light on our privilege by imagining that we ourselves or someone we love were lined up at the entrance of existence, waiting to realize where we were fated to be born. All things being equal, we would have a ...
- 70% chance of lacking religious freedom (NPR, 2009).
- 36% chance of living in a country that is not free (Reuters/Freedom House 2016).
- 25% chance of lacking electricity (10% - World Bank, 2018).
- 25% chance of lacking access to adequate sanitation (WHO, 2017).
- 25% chance of not finishing secondary school (World Bank, 2018).
- 17% chance of being a woman who experiences physical or sexual violence (WHO, 2017).
- 17% chance of being in child labor (8% chance of being in child labor [152 million] or 0.2% chance of being a child in forced labor [4.3 million] - ILO, 2017).
- 15% chance of having a disability (World Bank, 2020).
- 11% chance of lacking access to an improved water supply (38% chance of lacking basic handwashing facilities - WHO, 2019).
- 10% chance of being a girl who is married before the age of 18 (UNICEF).
- 10% chance of living on less than $1.90 per day (World Bank, 2015).
- 9% chance of suffering from severe food insecurity (11% [821 million] do not get enough to eat - WFP, 2019).
- 9% chance of losing one of our children before they turn 5 (WHO, 2020, World Bank, 2018) [1 in 26 chance of a child dying before age 5 in 2018 and 2.4 fertility rate].
- 6% chance of being orphaned (7% [140 million] - UNICEF).
- 1.25% chance of being a female victim of genital mutilation (2.5% [200 million] - UNICEF, 2020).
- 1% chance of being forcibly displaced (UNHCR, 2020).
- .5% chance of being a victim of human trafficking.
All things being equal, the likelihood that we would escape into existence without any of these hardships is just over 2%. Fortunately for a few, and unfortunately for everyone else—all things are most definitely not equal. The world's greatest injustices are distributed in clusters. Some people do not have to face any of them; many others are forced to live with several of them. They are stacked up in batches and pressing down like fetters upon the poorest. The fortunate ones are lifted above them all, even as they crash down upon the least of these wave upon wave … not because of anything they did or failed to do. It could just as easily have been us.
Those of us who don’t live under the yoke of even one of those sources of fear or suffering may take it for granted. Every one of those things would for us be pervasive and ever-present, choking the joy out of each moment—the one thing that we would most want to change, but we would be powerless to do so.
Of those of us to whom much has been given, much is required. We must change our lives and give more of our time or money for those who deserve it no less but need it so desperately much more than we do. We must take up the issues that grab our heart and run after them with all the strength and energy we can spare—and more. We must learn more. Read more. Think more. Pray more. Give more. Do more. To do less is to live under a lie that betrays humanity—that the underprivileged are less human, less valuable, less important than us; that we actually deserve our privilege, and they their sorrow.
No. It might have been, just as easily could have been, and it would be no less just if it were us. Love Justice works to share the love of Jesus Christ by fighting the world’s greatest injustices. Learn more here.
*Names have been changed and certain locations omitted for the security and privacy of all those involved.