Rebecca Munson’s lecture at Christianity & National Security 2023.

Rebecca Munson discusses international human rights, Christian morals, and the fight against human trafficking. The following is a transcript of the event.

Our speaker, uh, starting off the afternoon, is not from Pepperdine, but from Liberty University, and we have three or four or five students here from Liberty, yes? Yes, thank you, Liberty. Um, but uh, your Professor Becky Munson. We’re delighted that she is here, uh… She is a rising star, uh, Professor, of government and international relations by describing that accurately and a contributor to our Providence Magazine. Wonderful writer, and uh, I know that she will have very insightful things to share with us, so thank you Becky.  

Well it’s a treat to talk with you all today. Yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice just how many of the speakers touched on human rights in one way or another in their talk. So, um, I want to focus on human rights with you today, especially how economic and military power have always mattered when it comes to advancing ideas about human dignity. 

There seems to be growing sentiment in America today that it’s somehow immoral for the U.S. to hold too much power, and I think we’re really seeing these arguments, uh, bubble up when it comes to, um, moral equivalency ideas, um with China. But when it comes to the merits and the morality of power, particularly on human rights, reality is far more complex. So I want to take the next few minutes together and I want to, um, think about this complexity. And to do this I want to try and cover a lot of ground with you in a relatively short period of time.  

Um, so first, given that human rights are increasingly politicized in American politics today, it’s… I think it’s probably likely that at least a few of you in the room may view the modern human rights project as a whole with some skepticism. So, as our first order of business, we’re going to touch briefly on the merits and origins of international human rights, and since we’re at a national security and security conference, I’m going to get a particular focus on the Christian ideas that have shaped our modern ideas about human rights. Then we’re going to focus on the main theme that I really want you to consider today: how economic and military power have always mattered when it comes to protecting human dignity. And then towards the end, we’ll touch on some of the well-known warnings about messianism in foreign policy, which I hope will spark some interesting questions about the limits of using economic and military power to advance human rights. 

Okay, so when it comes to the origins of international human rights, what we think of as international human rights today, we are all likely familiar with how modern Western human rights are rooted in the premise that each individual human has a unique sort of dignity and worth and divinely ordained person… purpose. The focus… this focus on the unique dignity and worth of individuals and their equal value is the main reason, in my view, why Christendom’s picture of human rights enjoys such widespread popularity and allure. 

Christianity gave us a new standard of beauty for rights, one which prevailed over its Greco-Roman rivals, rivals that had assigned rights to people based on their societal status and duties rather than their inherent worth as individuals created in the image of a Divine being. This is why, in classical conceptions of rights, um, you saw the routine exploitations… 

Oh I got it. Thank you, sir… Can you hear me? Yes, okay… 

In classical conceptions of rights, you saw the routine exploitations of um, slaves. You saw coerced prostitution, um, and it was acceptable so long as, for example, that prostitute was part of a low societal group and it wasn’t, um, until classical conceptions of morality gave way to Christian conceptions of morality that we see prostitution portrayed as a sin, a fundamentally wrong violation of human dignity. Theodosis the second, a Christian emperor, endorsed the new law in AD 80… AD 428 to ban coercion in the sex industry. And this law, which is considered a turning point in Western sexual ethics, introduced the concept of sin to the masses.  

The morality of human behavior was no longer predicted on what society viewed as appropriate. It was reframed and, as a matter, decided in light of what God viewed as appropriate. These and other radical Christian ideas about the value of individuals slowly transposed into European law. Starting under Imperial Rome and then throughout the Middle Ages, Christians can and should take much of the credit for modern human rights. Their doctrine elevates the lowly and gives voice to the oppressed.  

Equality, which is perhaps the most unique component of modern Western rights, um, resonates with the conscience and with divinely imprinted senses of right and wrong on the human heart, and clashes with the world’s formula for assigning rights based upon social status and duty. Because our rights stem from a Divine source, um, they cannot and should not be trampled on by any political actor. This means that egregious atrocities, genocide, slavery, state-endorsed mass starvation… these are all impermissible. It means that assigning rights based on class and society’s constantly fluctuating ideas about duty is unacceptable. 

But despite these many merits to the modern human rights idea and project, um, there is an undeniable subjectivity now associated with human rights. Subjective rights often implicate a mere individual and mo- moral relativism, which have led to dramatic expansions in the definition of what constitutes a human right. Because of this subjectivity, many Westerners are now under the dangerous illusion that individual preferences have no effect on the collective health of society. Um, the very individualism and equality that were once cherished as meaningful parts of the Christian contribution to right are now the same elements to blame for subjective rights. And this is why some Christian thinkers, um, lambast theologians for um, having been naive in their appropriation of rights talk, appropriations which allowed human rights to become embedded into the social, um, Christian social conscience. 

Incredibly, some religious scholars go so far as to suggest that the political rights is… project as a whole is doomed, um, and the underlying fear that, um, is that rubber stamping the modern rights, modern human rights project as a whole means capitulation to a set of liberal values that are incompatible with moral teachings and religious institutions. However, the existence of these multifaceted debates, um, does not negate the reality that the Bible speaks to individual rights. 

Think, for example, of the laborer receiving his due wage. And of course, we have that very famous commandment against stealing. When we’re talking about basic human rights, there is no denying that they are morally and philosophically justifiable. However, ideas themselves, ideas about individual dignity and equality, they are not enough. What do I mean by this? Christianity’s ideas about rights triumphed not just because they resonate with the conscience or because they are more beautiful. Conceptually, the ideas triumphed over their rivals because they gained attachment to political power. Ambiguous concepts of rights, attractive and true as they might ring, are hard to exercise and enjoy until they become political. 

Consider, for example, example… how the Evangelical Awakening of the 18th Century, um, was followed by numerous humanitarian acts, uh, of British Parliament, including the prohibition of slavery and laws that forbade children from working in factories. As one of my favorite, um, uh, Protestant Ministers, uh, Martin Lloyd Jones put it in 1955, once men are right with God, they get right with one another. But notice, it took acts of Parliament to ensure that good ideas translated into actual protections for vulnerable people. Likewise, when it comes to international human rights, aspirational ideas are by no means solely responsible for the sprawling legal architecture, um, that contours the modern human rights regime. 

Powerful countries have been willing to use their military and economic strength and weight to back up human rights commitments. Modern human rights are the product of a complex interplay between good ideas and the right applications of political, military, economic power. Many people talk about allied victory in World War II as a marker of how much military power matters when it comes to ending atrocities, but I think the importance of strong powers backing up good ideas can also be seen quite clearly by tracing out the rise of the abolitionist movement and then considering also where we are today in the global fight against human trafficking. 

Um, the Protestant Reformations can be given disproportionate credit for the idea that slavery needed to end. Even though the Bible does not condemn slavery as an institution, there is repeated focus on the obligation of Christians to defend the oppressed. In the 14th Century, Capetian, the Capetian father uh, Gregory of Nissa, was the first to argue that the institution of slavery was sinful, basing his argument on the idea that Christ actively identified with slaves when he died by crucifixion, which was a slave’s death. But it wasn’t until the 18th and 19th centuries that Church leaders began to seriously question the institution of slavery itself.  

And acclaimed historian Tom Holland, Tom Holland, um, suggested the emergence of the idea that the Christian God wanted slavery to be abolished was due to the, uh, confluence of two circumstances. The first was the Protestant Reformation which supported Christians reading scriptures for themselves and cultivated the idea that slavery was morally wrong. And then, Holland argues that the second reason the abol- the abolitionist movement took hold, um is because in the Caribbean and North America, mortality rates on plantations were skyrocketing and the sheer horror of abuses was becoming very difficult to explain away. And the concurrent racialization of slavery made it even more difficult to argue that slavery was in any way biblical. 

The Quakers, followed by the Evangelical, es… Episcopalians, and other Protestants launched what we in the 21st Century might think of as an advocacy campaign. The Quaker-inspired 1787 British Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade began petitioning Parliament, and under the leadership of William Wilberforce, um, the abolitionists finally saw the fruits of their labor in 1806, when the Foreign Slave Trade Act through… flew through the House of Commons. 

Um, interestingly, this bill was framed as a national security measure, which helped to inoculate it from pro-slavery ar… pro-slavery arguments, and that same framing has been used in recent decades to pass anti-human trafficking legislation. Um, I’m thinking particularly in Russia. Um, changes in Britain’s material circumstance had paved the way also for abolitionist ideas to gain political traction. The French Revolution, which had ended recently, um, in 1799, had reduced Britain’s power competition in the West Indies, and the French had also recently lost control over sugar plantations in Haiti.  

These developments eased concerns over how abolition could impact Britain’s commercial interests. In 1807, a new bill finally banned British participation in the slave trade, and another came in 1833 which abolished slavery in Britain altogether as Holland hi- highlights in his historical work. Um, uh, by the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the French Foreign Secretary negotiating in Vienna had no choice but to demand that the slave trade be abolished. And at this juncture, Catholic countries were also compelled to become abolitionists. International laws started to emerge prohibiting transatlantic slave trade, laws which gave the British Navy the latitude to unilaterally se- seize slave trade ships and other Atlantic Powers, uh, the ships of other Atlantic Powers – the British and French even forced the Ottoman Empire to start regulating their slave trade. 

Like any human rights campaign, abolitionist advocacy turned potent when it landed on the agenda of a powerful country, one with the military and economic strength needed to compel other countries to accept new formulations of appropriate and just behavior. For centuries, Christians have shaped secular impulses towards justice, but missionaries did not end the transatlantic slave trade. It was the Royal Navy. 

Today, when it comes to ending the fight against human trafficking, modern slavery, it is not advocacy groups doing the most to end modern slavery. It is the U.S. Department of State, which harnesses America’s economic strength to impose sanctions on countries that fail to meet their own commitments to combat human trafficking. The Western slave trade ran its course for 400 years, and put over 12 million people into slavery. Yet today, we have over 27 million people caught in forced labor and sex trafficking, according to the ILO. So there are more slaves in the world today than at any other time in human history. And I see it as our moral responsibility to consider what kind of approaches are producing the fastest resolution to this tragedy. 

In the 1990s, many countries did not have, uh, anti-human trafficking laws on their books, but today nearly every country in the world has at least some type of anti-trafficking legislation in place. Often the key for prompting countries to get this legislation in place and other improvements has been the coercive diplomacy strategy employed by the Department of State since 2001, when the… when the State Department’s trafficking and office… uh, trafficking and persons office, was created. The U.S. has been the de facto enforcer of widely agreed upon anti-trafficking standards which are found in the United Nations’ Palermo Protocol. The U.S. grades every country each year on how well it’s complying with those Palermo Protocol commitments. Um, and if a country gets a blacklisted ranking in the State Department’s report, it can receive sanctions.  

This approach has rendered some positive results not only in the Central American cases that I’ve focused on the most, um, in my own work, but also in many other cases that have received scholarly attention such as Belarus, Georgia, Israel, the Philippines, and even Russia. Each of these countries went through at least one period of noticeable improvement, uh, on anti-trafficking and these improvements can be traced back to economic incentives, incentives which gave the political elites in those countries reason to work quickly and even urgently to comply with the minimum anti-trafficking criteria outlined in the United Nations’ Palermo Protocol. 

Nicaragua, believe it or not, became, uh, Central America’s leader on anti-trafficking from 2010 to 2014, shortly after the U.S. threatened it with sanctions for its non-compliance with its anti-trafficking commitments. And we saw a high point in Mexican anti-trafficking compliance towards the late 2000s. Our neighbor to the South ended up permitting tremendous foreign influence in their anti-trafficking legislation, um, and allowed U.S. law enforcement to come in and execute a wide range of initiatives. These allowances, these openings angered people in the Mexican human rights, um, community, many of whom adamantly disagreed with the level of American influence in Mexico’s domestic affairs, but the Mexican Government allowed for these openings to maintain economic and security partnerships with the U.S.  

Time and time again, countries improve only when the U.S. gives them a reason to improve. This is not because all other governments are apathetic, or because anti-trafficking groups are failing. Rather, it’s because modern slavery boils down to a political will problem. Political elites usually need materialistic incentives of some kind to get them to act, and the U.S. is the main actor right now equipped with these tools. Broad coalitions of governments, international institutions, and civil society groups complement American enforcement attempts, um, and NGOs can be valuable partners. But make no mistake about it, power still matters tremendously. And we really see this dynamic if we take a quick look at China and how it’s behaved over the past two decades on trafficking.  

Um, what we see with China is that it’s provided new sets of verbal commitments, um, around the same timeframe that the State Department has threatened it with sanctions. We saw this back in 2013 when it finally was blacklisted. China used this new set of verbal commitments as a national, uh, anti-trafficking plan that it produced to get itself off of the blacklist. Um, and then it found itself there again in 2017, which was far too long. The… the… the U.S. had politicized that case a bit, and we can talk about that in the Q&A if that’s of interest, um, but China’s record also shows us the limits as you might suspect of using economic carrots and sticks in situations of greater power parity between the sender and the target. 

Pushing China to issue new verbal commitments like the ones I just mentioned, the ones that came out in 2013, were unsurprisingly not enough to spur the PRC to actually implement major reforms. They were, of course, just the means used by the PRC to qualify for the waiver it needed from the U.S. president to get out of the sanctions danger zone. Um, so it’s at this point where China’s record on anti-trafficking begins to break more cleanly from patterns that are evident in other cases. In other cases, economic incentives and penalties were considerably more useful in motivating target states who actually implement reforms.

So there are certainly limits to what we can accomplish with economic incentives, um, uh, and I mentioned you know, also that there is… there is, um… politicization that occurs sometimes in the U.S. approach on all this, but still a wide range of national anti-trafficking records show that it at least, on this issue… value-promoting states have played a critical role in accelerating government responses to trafficking. It’s not transnational advocacy networks that are the primary actor driving the most rapid national-level responses.  

This is significant to consider because human rights scholarship is beginning to divide more sharply over questions of agency. That is, which actors are best at advancing human rights norms internationally. And there are two broad accounts. As you might guess, one puts weight on the activities of transnational advocacy networks, and the second account focuses on the role that value-promoting states play in spreading human rights norms through their foreign policies. Fuzziness between these two broad accounts, transnational advocacy groups, on the one hand, and then strong states on the other, um, is not so much over whether human rights norms matter. Um, rather, the disagreements boil down to the casual mechanisms that trigger and produce the most critical changes in how governments behave on human rights. And then, of course, the agents that equipped to supply those triggers. 

What I tend to argue is that, you know, through their foreign policies, states can and should be value promoters, um, and human rights norm enforcers because they are the actors equipped with, uh, the incentives, the materialistic incentives and penalties that other governments may quickly respond to. Well-intentioned individuals and advocacy groups are not directly responsible, as I alluded to before, for the episodic progress that defines the contours of the history of human rights progress is due to political revolutions, religious revivals, the agenda of imperial powers, the outcomes of major wars, and great power competition. 

Ideas have power. So it’s critical that our ideas are good ideas. But ideas themselves, if you think of them as agents for change, they have clear limits. Economic and military power matter greatly. When it comes to… when it came to embedding the West’s moral vision into practice, um, it was military power that was needed to end the transatlantic slave trade, just as it was military power needed to end slavery in the United States. 

While it is not through military and economic strength alone that the Western concensus on human rights has solidified, strength has been critical, and I would argue that, when it comes to ending modern slavery, it is U.S. economic penalties and incentives that are our best hope for expeditious progress. 

If this sounds like a bit of a U.S.-centric argument it is, but primarily by default. The United Nations has largely deferred to the U.S. for enforcement of its own anti-trafficking protocols. Our allies are here to support us in these efforts but they are rarely leading the charge on the international stage in a consistent and comprehensive way. 

Now, as I move towards the end, here, notice that one question I’m not asking is should the world be this way? Should it require military and economic strength to spread and enforce moral principles? I want to be clear that I’m not, um, what… that… I’m not trying to say the world should be this way, um, and this doesn’t mean that human nature doesn’t have some important complexities. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t thousands of altruistically motivated, hardworking individuals around the world toiling in their own countries to address the egregious human rights atrocities of our time, time… 

Every country has a set of domestic actors that is constantly pushing its own government to do the right thing, and the last thing I want to do is minimize their work, but what I am most interested in identifying is the most expeditious path to ending current human rights atrocities, figuring out the fastest way to end human trafficking, which is what I focus on the most. Um, this is why I focus so much on these… these economic incentives and penalties, because it is the best hope, in my view, for the 27 plus million victims in trafficking today.  

Um, human rights scholars and activists are sometimes hesitant to fully acknowledge the success of the State Department’s approach to fighting trafficking. Part of the underlying worry is tat recognition of what the U.S. has accomplished on this issue might lend itself to um, uh, a temptation, um, to bring the… to bring justice to the world by conquering it. It might also fuel dangerous strands of nationalism. 

Certainly, the U.S. has exercised power inappropriately and imprudently at times, but America’s past foreign policy blunders should not cause us to cower in the corner. We have a responsibility to seek justice and correct our oppression through our foreign policy where it is prudent and feasible to do so. So, where might the limits be of that endeavor? Where might advancing human rights turn into messianism and at the same time, how do we also ensure we don’t default to some kind of amoral realism? 

I’ll wrap up by giving you an idea of some of my answers to those questions, and we can wrestle more with this in the Q&A. Moral aims can and should be incorporated into foreign policy, especially when the state holds vast material power, and ability to focus on justice in foreign policy expands as material power increases. But there must be some admonitions in order for countries seeking to do this. 

The first is that there’s got to be wide consensus over the moral claims the state is seeking to advance abroad. Um, the second, um, to maintain pragmatism and guard against utopianism, a strong power must continually reflect on its own faults. Such reflection helps us to check dreams of managing the fate of history, uh, articulated by the 20th Century theologian Niebuhr, which I understand you’ve heard about before earlier at this conference.  

So, has the U.S. been hypocritical and positioning herself as the enforcer of the international anti-trafficking, uh, regime? Absolutely. The U.S. waited several years before grading herself in the State Department’s trafficking report. U.S. presidents have sometimes politicized the trafficking report grades. We saw this really come to a head in 2015, and sometimes they’ve been too soft on allies. Honesty about mistakes breeds credibility and checks utopian tendencies. The third key to maintaining pragmatism when you’re thinking about using foreign policy to advance moral aims is steady focus on the national interest. Individual cases, even those as horrifying as human trafficking cannot be pursued if they jeopardize first order priorities. Um, I can talk about more of… talk about this more a little bit later, as well, um. 

But the final requirement for strong powers seeking to use their foreign policy to pursue justice is expectations of limited success. Lofty goals can have a useful rallying effect, but the drawback is they distract from the limits of what any great power can reasonably expect to accomplish on complex human rights issues. Since the early 2000s, many countries have made dramatic improvements in compliance with their own anti-trafficking commitments, but efforts tend to wane once U.S attention and pressure decreases on a targeted government, um, or financial incentives for compliance are no longer as tangible to political elites. 

The upkeep costs rack up, the bill becomes untenable, so no country can or should set out to create a perfectly mo- moral or just world. To attempt otherwise is to fall prey to what Niebuhr would call dreams of a pure virtue. But to abandon questions of when and where to use this power to resolve these types of issues, because they are so stick and challenging, that, I would like to suggest is truly inhumane. Rather, the real test is to make ourselves sit with and wrestle with the anxiety-inducing questions of what to do about the totalitarian regime in North Korea, the genocide against Uyghur Muslims, um, and the blatant oppression of women in theocratic regimes like Iran. 

If we are always feeling torn, conflicted, and perhaps even a little bit helpless as we try and navigate these questions about when and where to use power to promote human rights, well then, I think, um, we are… we might be on to something.  

So I’ll take some questions 


Question: Hi it’s uh, Ethan Coffee from the University of North Carolina, um, at Chapel Hill. Um, yeah. I’m interested in… in positions where, um, as Christians, we might be in a minority, um, in these situations, um, and yeah, how we should engage with a more secular majority, um, and yeah… Would you say that we should, I don’t know how… How can we effectively advocate, um, for Christian morality by secular means? Um, to secular people? Um, or do you think we should just reach positions where we are capable of advocating or enacting the policies ourselves? Um, and I’m also won- wondering whether it, I know, what role common grace has in all of this. 

Answer: Thank you, great questions. So towards the beginning of my talk, I kind of touched on the allure of what Christianity brought to the… the idea of political rights and human rights, and I think there is tremendous consensus across Christians and, and folks who do not identify as Christians about the merits and values of the human rights… the modern human rights project. I think staying focused on what human rights… on… on ending major atrocities and ending major violations of human rights… that is how we create camaraderie and consensus across people who are religious and non-religious, because that resonates with us all, because we all are, in my view, created in the image of God. So there are certain things that resonate with our hearts, because we are created in the image of God, so playing to that, I think, is key to maintaining focus on what the modern human rights project brings to the table. 

I think also reflecting on what alternatives might be if we start to abandon the mod… the Western cons… consensus on what human rights are. I think reflecting on that and talking with people about that is also important, especially as you see actors like China making bids to impose their own collectivist view of human rights into high politics, into the highest political forums. They do not care about individual value and worth, right? Right.  

So helping people see that, if an alternative p… an alternative paradigm for human rights comes into power, it’s not going to be business as usual for us the way that we’ve grown accustomed to for Christians and non-Christians alike in the Western world. So I think shedding light on that is also very important, but ultimately there is a reason why what Christianity brought to the idea of rights won out over the rivals that I briefly touched on today. It’s because it does resonate with how God created us as individuals in his image. So whatever you can do in your discourse with others to get them to reflect on that, I think is… is very useful. 

Question: Hi. I’m Jonathan McGee from Grove City College. I’m wondering how you think the U.S. should grapple with problems with countries like Saudi Arabia where they have a horrific human rights record, but we still need to work with them for other security issues within the region.  

Answer: Yeah, that’s a really important question right now, especially. I think Rebecca’s remarks earlier today… um, she spoke about Saudi Arabia a little bit, and how… and I touched on, you know, first order priorities. Right now, there are certain first order priorities that have to be prioritized over… I hate to say it… this is a second order priority for foreign policy. Doesn’t have to be a second order priority for individuals, um, but for foreign policy, it’s a second order priority, especially with what we have going on in the world right now. So that, yeah… If there’s no way to do it all and do it all perfectly, trade-offs have to be made. And Christians sometimes are hesitant to get their hands dirty, this kind of stuff. And I would say, plunge right in. Welcome to the party. You know? 

Making… making these difficult decisions is what it means to be a leader.  

Question: Hi. Thank you. My name is Elizabeth, I’m from Taylor University in Indiana. Could you give some examples on what economic incentives practically look like for ending human trafficking and whether you think positive or negative incentives are more effective? 

Answer: Certainly. So, um, an example would be Mexico when the Merida Initiative was on the table. Um, we had… the U.S. had a lot of, um, room, there, um, because Mexico wanted to be… they wanted the initiative, right? So we were able to, um, create openings for us to work directly with the Mexican government on anti-trafficking. Um, that was a way we sort of coerced them to do what we wanted… wanted them to do on anti-trafficking. So that would be sort of an example of a positive incentive, and I think it just depends on the context.  

What’s more uh, what’s more useful… so in Nicaragua, which I find a really surprising case, really fascinating case, um… Like I mentioned, Ortega… Under Ortega, Nicaragua became Central America’s leader on anti-trafficking from 2010 to 2014, and that was because, um, the Nicaragua was about to become eligible for sanctions due to its very low performance on trafficking. Now, Ortega had experienced U.S. sanctions before, right? When he was in power previously. And so, the… the concept of going through any of that again terrified him. 

So he acted very quickly to respond to State Department pressure on this issue. He would… he over-complied. That’s how I describe what happened in Nicaragua… to ensure that there was no possibility of them receiving that sanctions package, so Nicaragua has a very, um, top-down police force and the Ortega regime mobilized that police force to go out and do the investigations, um, uh, and… and get the arrests… get the data, the law enforcement data that they needed to take to State and say look, we’re doing a whole lot better, we’re actually doing better than all of our neighbors, and um, you know, that was a period where Ortega was still kind of in good graces with the U.S. government. And so it was a great talking point for both sides. There was something positive for… for both sides to talk about.  

So it really is quite contextual, you know there… there is no, um, one-size-fits-all formula for this. It takes a lot of thought on the part of our diplomats to implement these things, um, approximately, um… you have to have a lot of, um, contextualized knowledge about what you’re walking into, but um, if these situations are carefully managed and these types of economic, you know, incentives and penalties are appropriately, uh, wielded, I think we can see… We can see success. 

Question: Hi, my name is Lindsay Heiser. I’m from Messiah University. Um, I just want to say one, your speech, I really enjoyed it. Um, one of the things that it reminded me of was this movie that came out this past summer: the Sound of Freedom, um, and just, my quick curiosity was Tim Ballard, the FBI agent that the story was surrounded by… Do you think in the future you can see more people like him take off to go to Mexico and make these decisions to stop human sex trafficking across the… just different countries and different countries? 

Answer: Um, in short no, not really, because, um, they don’t have the jurisdiction, right? You have to work with the local police forces, um, to arrest somebody in another country, right? So, um, uh, great… you know, movies are here for inspiration. Um, I know that movie got a lot of criticism. Um, what I’ll say about that is well I… I don’t see how Hollywood pushing out, um, movies that try and share similar messages right now, um… Any movie is going to be oversimplified, dramatic. They’re… they’re worried about selling tickets. Um, so I hope that helps answer your question. 

Question: Hello. I’m Devon Bernett from LU. Um, I… I really appreciate your… your speech and what you’re… were talking about uh, human trafficking and like, the slave trade, um, in the world, but um… I’ve noticed that in America there’s like a disillusionment with human rights, and we think that, like, abortion and, like, universal healthcare or free healthcare is a human right, and like how would you explain to the first world, uh… countries like those… rights kind of pale into comparison to the um, the more detrimental rights of, like, your freedom as a… as a person in other countries, yeah. 

Answer: This is kind of what I was hinting at. Maybe I wasn’t forceful enough in my comments on subjective rights. Um, we… we are a little bit, um, in danger of losing the whole human rights project, right? Because there’s just… consensus is… is waning because of these… these questions about what constitutes a human right. So I tend to… I tend to really hold to a traditional definition of what human rights consists of, and focus on what’s h… major atrocities. 

I think part of the challenge in the Western World is we are not considering enough what’s happening outside of our own countries, and the hardships that we think we’re experiencing here in the U.S. are typically – not always, but typically – absolutely nothing, um, like the hardships that, uh, people are experiencing in other continents. I think reflection on others, um, and moving… moving uh, our energy and thought away from ourselves is… is key to helping to solve some of these challenges as well about what constitutes a human right.  

Time for one more question, thank you. 

Question: Um, the taking of hostages… those of us that are a little more mature in age have seen many instances, especially going back to Iran, but today the… the taking of hostages is not universally condemned. Why not? 

Answer: Well I think it goes back to, um, those first… you… those first order priorities I was mentioning earlier. I actually don’t think it’s wrong to take hostages in certain situations, so, um, I don’t… that’s a bit of a… a note to end things on, but maybe… 

Right. Sounds Good.