The Locust Effect - a book review

Just a few pages into Gary Haugen’s new book, The Locust Effect (released February 4), you will realize that you are reading something significant. By the end of the book, it seems obvious that both the goal and result of this book will be to significantly reshape how we think about anti-poverty efforts as policymakers, advocates and individuals.

Gary Haugen has long been at the forefront of mobilizing churches to take up the cause of justice as central to the heart of God, and the life of a Christian. The organization he founded, International Justice Mission, is at the vanguard of promoting human rights and relieving oppression. Now, due in large part to Gary’s work and influence (along with others like Ron Sider, Rich Stearns, Bill Hybels and John Stott), the idea of justice is embraced by our churches, and has great cache in the broader culture. With The Locust Effect—Haugen’s opus for not just Christians, but all people—we are urged to move beyond just the idea of justice, and asked to take the issues of justice seriously.

Photo Credit: Charlesjsharp via Creative Commons

Haugen’s message is simple and stark: the enduring threat and persistent reality of everyday violence against the poor undermines and even reverses much of the efforts to lift people out of extreme poverty. As the lead UN investigator in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, Haugen’s job was to “assemble…a very precise picture of how mass murder actually happens.” During the investigation process, Haugen came to understand that “these very impoverished Rwandans at their point of most desperate need, huddled against those advancing machetes in that church, did not need someone to bring them a sermon, or food, or a doctor, or a teacher, or a micro-loan. They needed someone to restrain the hand with the machete—and nothing else would do.”

As Haugen makes clear, the poor do not just face violence from war and conflict. In fact, according to the U.N., 4 billion people live outside the protection of law. Every day, they live in fear of violence that threatens their livelihood, dignity and safety. This everyday violence comes in the form of sexual violence, violent land seizures, forced labor and police abuse--violence that affects individual people. People like Laura, a 10-year-old girl in Korogocho who was on her way to school when she was sexually assaulted. Or Gopinath from Tamil Nadu who borrowed $10 for food, and was forced to work in a rock quarry for fifteen years to pay off the debt. Or Susan, a Ugandan woman who was already struggling to care for her three grandchildren, and had her home destroyed and her land occupied by thugs.

Like a plague of locusts, Haugen argues, this everyday violence robs people of what they have, and destroys much of their potential. So efforts to provide aid to the poor without addressing the constant threat of violence that pervades their lives can “seem like a mocking.”

Click here to read the complete book review courtesy Relevant Magazine

The opinions in this review are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the Florida Conference.

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