Seeking justice and protecting the most vulnerable in the midst of a global pandemic
“The hope of the Gospel leads us to hope for justice and abundant life for all people.”
Throughout history, the Church – whether through congregations, individuals, or para-church ministries – has been essential in providing relief during plagues, pandemics and natural disasters. This is still a reality in 2020: the world faces another outbreak and the Church can and should step in to protect and serve the most vulnerable.
COVID-19’s impact has not only disrupted normalcy and routine, it has resulted in many losses: loved ones, jobs, support systems. It has even forced us to rethink the way we do church, share the Good News of the Gospel and show love for one another. Additionally, the pandemic exponentially highlights the disparity between wealthy and impoverished populations; for example, the Latin America region now accounts for over 50% of daily coronavirus deaths worldwide. Even worse, this pandemic is accompanied by another global plague: the surge of violence against women and children.
Several efforts are being made to contain the virus and quarantines are necessary; however, they have unintentionally forced many vulnerable populations to remain at home with abusive family members, legal guardians or partners. Pre-pandemic, Latin America had the highest rates of violence against women and children in the world, with six countries – Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Argentina, El Salvador and Bolivia – representing 81% of the cases in the region. In lockdown, the number of reported cases are rapidly increasing.
Responding during a major global pandemic can feel overwhelming. We may wonder: How can I and my church make a difference? I, at International Justice Mission (IJM), think about this every day. Inspired by God’s call to love all people, IJM’s mission is to protect people in poverty from violence. We partner with local governments to rescue victims, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors to safety and strength, and help local law enforcement build a safe future that lasts. We believe the global Church is integral to build this future!
Below are four ways in which you and your church can begin to seek justice for the most vulnerable in the midst of a global pandemic:
- Pray: Prayer is the boldest and most subversive of all actions in the midst of crisis. As Christians, we are invited to come to God with everything in supplication (Ephesians 6:18), including our most vulnerable feelings of fear, isolation, despair or hopelessness. In prayer, we pour our hearts out to God and he fills us with the strength we need for every day. In prayer, God moves us to plea for our brother and sisters who desperately need help. As you pray this week, lift these petitions to God:
- Pray for freedom and protection from violence for women and children who are at-risk during Covid-19 while living with abusive family members, partners or legal guardians.
- Pray for local authorities to move quickly to identify victims of violence and bring them to safety.
- Pray for judges to rule with justice and hold aggressors accountable, both to restrain them from hurting others, and to show survivors that their voices and lives matter.
- Seek Justice by Advocating: Use your voice to raise awareness about the increased violence that many children and women across Latin America are experiencing. Share how COVID-19 disproportionately hurts people living in poverty. Advocate and seek public policy chances. Join advocates around the country signing this petition requesting the US government to send urgent funds to protect women and children in Central America.
- Join the Global Movement of Justice: Ask your church’s leadership to join the over 15,000 churches globally who in the past two years have used their platforms for justice by hosting an IJM Freedom Sunday. They pray, commit to learn more about biblical justice, and give to help provide rescue and restoration to victims of violence.
- Don’t Lose Hope: Although these are hard times, with a global pandemic, an equally pressing plague of violence against women and children, racial injustice and oppression, the loss of loved ones and jobs, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and give in to despair, but I encourage you to not lose hope (Galatians 6:9). It is a hard season, yet I am reminded of the disciples on the road of Emmaus. Their world felt like it was falling apart, yet through it all Jesus was ever present and ever faithful walking with them. Take courage knowing that the work of justice is the work of the God of justice who walks beside you.
In addition to these four ways to engage, IJM has developed free family and home-learning resources. I pray that these suggestions would help serve as the beginning of your journey to seek justice from where you are as an extension of God’s kingdom here and now — amid a global pandemic.
Global Senior Lead for Latin America Communications
International Justice Mission
Andrea Rodriguez is from Bolivia and lives in the Washington, D.C. area, where she serves as the Global Senior Lead for Latin America Communications at International Justice Mission.
At International Justice Mission we are a global team of lawyers, social workers, community activists and other professionals in 27 offices across 19 countries who share in the mission of protecting people in poverty from violence. In Latin America we work in Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Guatemala.