The intersection of health and justice
Physicians are trained to treat their patients with compassion as people, not diseases. However, those who have been enslaved tend to be more deeply wounded than others. A special understanding of the sensitivities and nuances of caring for chronically traumatized people is necessary.
The health care community has lagged behind first in identifying human trafficking as a health care issue, as well as effectively addressing the unique needs of trafficking victims. There is a great gap in trauma-informed, competent, and compassionate health care for most survivors of human trafficking today. Katherine uses her experience and skills to advocate for survivors’ needs, as well as train health care professionals in holistic care of them. Health care professionals are also on the front lines of identification of trafficked people. A hospital or clinic may be the only interface with the general public a victim may have, and may present an opportunity for identification and release.
To be healthy is, of course, to be free from disease. More than that, health means to be in a state of holistic wellbeing physically, mentally, and emotionally. Health is both public and private. It exists on an individual and community level, and it is generational.
Justice is much more than a legal term: it is an active and tangible work of making things in this world right and whole to bring about shalom: integrated wholeness. Justice is transformative, not only for the doer, but also for the receiver, bringing about integration in the midst of the action. To do justice with compassion means to work with empathy and extend mercy. Justice can be practical, but it can also be extravagant. Compassionate justice is the only way to be present to people such as these:
- To help lift the pain of that Chinese woman who, despite the urgings of her family, kept her child who is afflicted with cerebral palsy. Because there is no adequate welfare system for special needs children there, this woman prostitutes herself in order to pay for her child’s high-cost medical care.
- To be present to the stateless six year old abandoned by his father after his trafficked forced-bride mother disappeared, having been captured or arrested or worse.
- To give hope to the seventeen year old girl who has lost all hope in humanity, whose goal is to use as many people as possible before she kills herself.
- To approach research in this area with the vision that each man, woman and child is an individual loved by God, not simply a data point for publication.
John Perkins could not have said it better: “Resolve today that you are going to embrace the justice will of God; become someone he can use to transform your street, your neighborhood, your place of work, your school and, yes, your church.” (from Follow Me to Freedom, Claiborne and Perkins, Regal books 2009)