Bethany Hoang was 14 when she first grasped the meaning of justice—by experiencing the painful reality of injustice. Her family was close friends with their next-door neighbors; Hoang frequently babysat their two young daughters. But one Saturday night, a phone call brought terrible news: The family had been in an accident, their car smashed by a drunk driver; the father was dead, and one of the daughters badly injured.
Hoang attended the court proceedings of the drunk driver, where it came to light that he had at least 13 prior offenses, ranging from DUIs to assault-and-battery to illegal weapon possession. Hoang also learned that the man's father was in law enforcement in a nearby county, "and somehow he always managed to get off. Every single time he was caught in a crime, he was released, and never faced any accountability. That reality crippled me internally. I had no idea how to process it."
She's still processing it today—while practicing the pursuit of justice as director of the IJM Institute for International Justice Mission (IJM), a human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression. Hoang, 32, often speaks and teaches at churches, conferences, and universities, bringing audiences to a better understanding of IJM's work and the pursuit of justice.
How did you end up at IJM?
While I was in seminary [at Princeton], the Salvation Army had set up a booth with a poster that said, "Slavery Is Alive," with a picture of a girl with a tear running down her cheek. The poster also said, "Rape for profit must be stopped." That knocked me over. I asked the woman at the table, "What do I do?" She sent me lots of articles, and I started doing some ...