Justice Mission president to speak on rights violations

Staff Writer,
Abilene Reporter-News
April 4, 2000

Gary Haugen had already been over much of the world, witnessing one atrocity after another, when he was appointed in 1994 as the chief genocide investigator in Rwanda, an African country ravaged by war.

It didn't matter. No preparation was adequate for what he saw there.

"Nothing can prepare you for the emotional impact of the magnitude of the killings in Rwanda," Haugen said Monday.

He will be in Abilene today addressing college students and the general public about his work as president of the International Justice Mission in Washington, D.C., an organization founded three years ago to provide expertise to Christian missionaries in foreign lands who witness human rights violations.

Haugen will meet with Abilene Christian University students in classes during the day before addressing church leaders at 3 p.m. He will give a free public address at 7:30 p.m. in Hart Auditorium of ACU's Biblical Studies Building.

Part of Haugen's reason for coming to Abilene is to tell people about human rights violations in the world and how Christians are confronting them. Another is to perhaps spark interest among college students who may someday follow his path.

In talks with college students across the country, Haugen said he sees a desire to learn about a larger purpose in life.

"They can be surprised how powerfully equipped they are to make a difference in the world," Haugen said.

That reality hit Haugen in the mid-1980s when, fresh out of Harvard University, he traveled to South Africa with the National Initiative for Reconciliation.

That movement of Christian leaders devoted to racial reconciliation and political reform was led by then-Bishop Desmond Tutu and Michael Cassidy of African Enterprise.

For Haugen, who grew up in a middle-class family in California, witnessing the oppression and brutality that was rampant in South Africa was jarring.

"For the first time I was confronted with the reality and magnitude of that overseas," he said.

But it wouldn't be the last time.

Haugen, a Baptist, said he wanted to see how Christians were responding to the injustices around them.

Some of what he saw in South Africa pleased him, some didn't.

The most impressive response came from Anglican Bishop Tutu, who confronted authorities in the white Dutch Reform church.

Tutu praised the church for bringing good hospitals and schools to South Africa and for bringing their Bibles with them, Haugen recalled.

"But now," Haugen said, quoting Tutu, "we're going to have to open up that Bible and show you where your apartheid system is sinful."

After that experience Haugen earned a law degree from the University of Chicago and eventually landed in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. In 1994 he was sent from the Justice Department to the United Nations' Center for Human Rights and was named officer in charge of the UN's genocide investigation in Rwanda.

During the fall of 1994, Haugen directed an international team of lawyers, criminal prosecutors, law enforcement officers and forensics experts in gathering evidence against the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide.

"It was a very powerful experience," Haugen said.

Uncovering up to 10,000 mutilated bodies in mass graves, much like the scenes discovered in Bosnia, wasn't unusual, he said.

In all, more than 500,000 bodies were found. It was Haugen's job to help put together evidence to present to an international tribunal being assembled by the United Nations.

Since then, Haugen has served as head of the International Justice Mission. In that role he travels the world witnessing abuses such as child prostitution and police brutality.

His organization is charged with lending expertise to missionaries who encounter the same atrocities.

Recently Haugen accompanied a "60 Minutes" crew to India for a special on child abuses there.

With all the evil he has witnessed, Haugen said he still believes it is possible to make a difference, and that is the message he tries to instill in college students.

"God is still in the business of seeking justice," Haugen said, "and he can use these students."

Contact religion writer Loretta Fulton at 676-6778 or fultonl@abinews.com.
Copyright ©2000, Abilene Reporter-News / Texnews / E.W. Scripps Publications


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