4.05.2012

Symposium Raises Awareness of Human Trafficking

"We tend to endure under the comforting illusion that slavery is a thing of the past," said Dr. Aidan McQuade, the director of Anti-Slavery International, speaking to a room full of human rights advocates. "The truth about forced labor in the world today is we are all implicated in this in a profound way."

The idea that no one is separate from issues of forced labor—broadly termed "human trafficking"—was the foundation for "Media and the Law: Seeking Justice for the Least of These," a symposium sponsored by Regent University's Center for Global Justice, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law. Held on Regent's campus March 29-31, the symposium brought together about 100 human rights organizations and panelists from a variety of fields, including law, government and the arts. McQuade was one of 60 featured speakers at the event.

"The goal of the entire conference was to foster collaborative networks and partnerships, to bring these people under one roof to share what they're doing that's wonderful in the world of human rights," explained Ashleigh Chapman, the administrative director of the Center for Global Justice. "I believe it was a great success."

Symposium topics included human trafficking, the protection of children, religious freedom, the rule of law and corrupt governments, among other issues. The purpose was to encourage creative collaboration and explore how media arts and the legal system can partner to affect change for oppressed people around the world.

Noted presenters and panelists included representatives from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Anti-Slavery International, Open Doors, Voice of the Martyrs, International Justice Mission, Focus on the Family, Truckers Against Trafficking, the Polaris Project and the A21 Campaign.

"It was a great privilege to be surrounded by so many dedicated scholars, practitioners and activists who are fully committed to holistically combatting slavery and violence around the world and who are working tirelessly to restore hope and a sense of normalcy to victims of oppression," said David Velloney, the executive director of the Center for Global Justice and assistant professor in the School of Law.

Regent Law Dean Jeffrey Brauch echoed Velloney's sentiments. "We had prayed that the event would facilitate meaningful partnership and collaboration and generate creative ideas and solutions to overcome obstacles to protecting the oppressed around the world," he said. "The event was inspirational to students and veteran human rights advocates alike."

The symposium kicked off on Thursday, March 29, with an evening of previews, presentations and interaction with global justice film producers. A number of dramatic and documentary films were screened, including a film directed and written by Regent alumnus Daniel McCullum '11 (School of Undergraduate Studies). McCullum wrote the screenplay and directed Alone while he was a student at Regent. A number of Regent students also served on the cast and crew.

One of the highlights of the three-day event was the banquet held on Friday, March 30. The event featured keynote speaker Ken Wales, the producer of the motion picture Amazing Grace, which tells the story of William Wilberforce, a British man who was instrumental in ending the British transatlantic slave trade.

As he worked on the movie, which released in 2007, Wales found that understanding Wilberforce's work provided perspective on today's global struggle against human trafficking. "We have to be as bold as Wilberforce was. He wasn't afraid," Wales explained. "The encouragement is to keep going because you've opened the door and the first thing to do is to say 'slavery is wrong.'"

While many ideas were presented, questions discussed and connections made, the point of the symposium was summed up early on in remarks from Danielle Sisk, the national director of student advocacy for the Dalit Freedom Network, an organization that works with a historically oppressed group of 250 million people in India. "None of us should ever be comfortable with the fact that slavery exists," she said. "Once you know, you are responsible."

Regent's Center for Global Justice provides strategic resources for law school students and those around the world who seek to combat human rights abuses. Learn more about the Center for Global Justice.

By Rachel Judy