BU Law Alum Seeks Justice For World's Oppressed

Oct. 7, 2003

by Marianne May, student writer

Baylor University Law School alumna Shannon Sedgwick challenged Chapel students Sept. 17 to participate in what she called "the grand purposes of God around the world."

Sedgwick spoke at both services about her work with International Justice Mission (IJM), an organization of investigators and lawyers dedicated to bringing justice to oppressed people across the globe.

Sedgwick left a prestigious Dallas law firm three years ago to join IJM in Washington, D.C., responding to "God's joyful beckoning to share in his passion for the world that lies beyond our borders."

A month later, she boarded a plane to South India, where more than 10 million children are held in slavery, according to UNICEF estimates.

"India is a place where the suffering is so thick I sometimes have trouble breathing," she said, describing her work to free children enslaved in a quarry, where they were beaten regularly for not breaking enough rocks.

Human rights violations are not limited to India, she said. Sedgwick described a village in Cambodia where girls as young as 5 years old were forced into prostitution.

"How will these people know that God is good?" she asked students. "What is God's plan for making it believable to these people that he is good?

"We are the plan," she said, and quoted several scriptures describing God's love for the world, his hatred of injustice, and his commands to his people to "Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow." (Isaiah 1:17, NIV)

In a one-on-one interview, Sedgwick shared that it was difficult at first to deal with the atrocities she continually witnessed.

"At first, I was angry," she said. "I had to reconcile my faith with what I was seeing."

"It was through a continual pursuit of my faith, my relationship with God and what I found in Scripture that I came to the conclusion that there is a lot of evil in the world," she said, "But just like Edmund Burke said, 'The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.'"

"A victory goes miles to sustain me, and it takes such a small investment to make such a huge difference," she said.

Sedgwick encouraged students not to be discouraged by the extent of the suffering in the world, but that "the grand invitation from God is to offer what we have to him, and watch him do the miracles."

Sedgwick spoke of the successes she has experienced since working at IJM, including the freeing of 44 people from the Indian quarry. And just a short time ago, the 37 young girls trapped in brothels in Cambodia also were set free, and 13 perpetrators were arrested.

"It was in those moments that I believe I was the closest I have ever been to seeing my savior face to face," she said.

The story of IJM's Cambodia rescue mission is scheduled to air on the NBC News Program "Dateline" sometime this fall.

Sedgwick gave several examples of ways students can help alleviate the suffering of the world, including sponsoring a child for $25 a month or working at a local shelter, where resources are stretched thin and volunteers are greatly needed.

"One of you could go and be a hero to someone today," she said. "There is nothing more powerful in the world than getting caught up in a cause that is bigger than you."

For more information, go to International Justice Mission.

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