In Justice Awakening, I read the story of South Korea’s Onnuri Community Church in Seoul, who recognized that to bear the image of God, they had to pursue mishpat or dikaisoyne (justice), that singing “This Is My Father’s World” wasn’t enough. They recognized that human trafficking was such an epidemic in their community and their country, that they set out to end the trading of people as slaves.
The church began to research the problem and study possible solutions. They figured out that human trafficking generates $32 billion dollars a year, and that reasons ranged from labor use, mail-order brides, begging, child soldiers, organ trafficking, adoption, and sexual exploitation. The victims weren’t of just one population but many, and their freedom wasn’t nearly as sudden or forceful as Liam Neeson’s Taken might lead us to believe.
Of course, those in involved in the sex trade weren’t Byun’s only opposition. Church people said things like, “It’s not the church’s role to be involved. Let the ‘experts’ handle it. Stick to the gospel! Stick to the ministry! It’s just a passing fad. Isn’t it too dangerous?”
Byun wrote, “The church has gotten too used to not taking risks. For far too long we’ve let governments do what God has called the church to do. We are letting others take the role of church in our communities and forgetting that Jesus was the great abolitionist. In fact, we’re letting the world take over our identity!”
So the Onnuri Community Church launched HOPE Be Restored (HBR) (“Helping the Oppressed and Prisoners of injustice Escape and Be Restored”) in 2010 and set up teams of people to pray for those who were mistreated, to raise awareness about the global problem of trafficking, to research the situations and find ways to help, to build networks and set up opportunities for healing, and to team to rescue and prevent those in slavery.
Byun says that his church prays for the victims, the traffickers, and the justice system, for the places where slaves are ‘broken’ to be destroyed, for the people doing the rescuing, for the church to be proactive, and for more people to get involved. He urges us to do the same… and to do more than read his book!