Earlier this month I spent two weeks in Kenya, where international attention has focused on the abduction and murder of three men: my colleague Willie Kimani, a human rights lawyer and investigator for IJM, our client Josephat Mwenda, and their taxi driver Joseph Muiruri. Willie and the IJM team were pursuing a case against a Kenyan police officer for shooting Josephat, and the two went missing with their trusted taxi driver while heading for their homes following a court hearing in Nairobi.
Tragically, eight days after they went missing, despite an extensive search led by Kenyan police and IJM staff, their bodies were found in the Ol-Donyo Sabuk River to the northeast of Nairobi on July 1, 2016. On Monday, July 18, four police officers were charged in their murder.
While we are encouraged by the investigation and arrest, our hearts are still devastated. And even as we deeply mourn these obscene murders, we are profoundly grateful to every government agency, nonprofit, church, and individual who used their voice to rally an urgent response to their disappearance. Now we need continued action to help us bring those responsible for their murder to justice—and fuel a massive movement to finally end impunity for abusive police in Kenya.
As we follow Jesus in his work of justice in a fallen and violent world, our staff willingly put themselves at risk every day. Seeking justice requires confrontation with evil. And evil fights back, with violence. But when Jesus tells his disciples, “You are the light of the world,” he is calling us to take that light into even the darkest corners.
As a human rights lawyer and an investigator for IJM, Willie was following hard after the God of justice. He was willing to place his very body between the violent men and the vulnerable poor. He was bearing the light of Christ bodily to the end, and no darkness will ever quench that immortal light in his soul or in the nation he loved.
The IJM family around the world mourns the deaths of Willie, Josephat and Joseph and strongly condemns the perpetrators of these murders. Even so, we know that evil always overplays its hand. The God of the universe, the God who created each of us, is a God of justice and his justice will be made known. This we know: God will not be mocked. And we at IJM will never, ever leave this fight he has given us.
I’m asking God to allow the deaths of these men, the rank arrogance of these murders, to shatter hearts all over the world to a tipping point of outrage. Enough is enough. These murders in Kenya expose a grotesque but long-tolerated brokenness in the justice systems of the world’s poorest communities: police systems that murder the poor when God has appointed these authorities to protect the poor. It is a brokenness that can and must be fixed. I’m praying that the voices that have been raised over these past few days will swell and multiply exponentially in the days ahead, because every voice matters. I’m praying that our voices will swell to a relentless roar for justice in Kenya, justice for all who are poor and vulnerable and suffer violence every day at the hands of oppressors.
My prayer, in this moment of deep grief, is that we will allow the murders of Willie, Josephat and Joseph to move us, perhaps as we have never been moved before—moved to compassion, to courage, to godly action. In a moment in history when the eyes of the world are staring in numbness and in shock at such violence, it is only fair to ask, where are the Christ-followers? Are they in the fight, “seeking justice, rescuing the oppressed” (Isa. 1.17)? I see Christians in Kenya leading the fight, “joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer” (Rom. 12:12). The question is whether they will do so alone. Or will the Body of Christ around the world rally to their side, because “if one part suffers, every part suffers with it” (1 Cor. 12:26)?
Christ is, right now, bringing his rule and reign to his fallen earth. It begins with his kingdom of love reigning in our hearts; and, as it did with Willie, it then overflows into a fierce work of justice and mercy that serves to transform God’s world. Our work will not be silenced until this fight, begun with Willie, is finished by his God.
Gary Haugen is CEO and founder of International Justice Mission. Join others in raising your voice for justice at www.ijm.org/justiceinkenya.