Written by Morgan Wrigley // Photo by Macy Cox
The Harding community heard from attorney and diplomat Ambassador John Cotton Richmond Feb. 23 as he spoke in chapel and on a panel about his faith, justice and his work to combat human trafficking.
Dr. Andrew Baker, director of the Harding Office of Community Connection, introduced Richmond when he spoke in chapel. He said the idea of having the ambassador speak on campus has been in the works for a while.
“We’ve talked about different times of trying to have the ambassador on campus, and I’m thankful today is that time,” Baker said.
Baker went on to list Richmond’s credits, including that he was named one of the federal prosecutors of the year and called “every trafficker’s worst nightmare” by the head of the FBI Human Trafficking Program.
Richmond’s duty now as the chief impact officer of Atlas Free, a nonprofit organization that combats sexual exploitation, is to help resource and accelerate organizations that fight human trafficking.
Baker said Richmond is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council — a nonpartisan organization aiming to tackle global challenges — senior advisor to Love Does — a nonprofit human rights organization — and a frequent speaker on justice, foreign policy, leadership and vocation.
Richmond shared a message in chapel about the calling of Christians to follow Jesus, do his work and realize that it is not about experience or status.
“Jesus wants to release us from the pressure that doing good is about us, or it’s about our abilities, or it’s about our passing privileges and temporary titles,” Richmond said. “… What matters is not our status. What matters is who we’re following.”
He tied that message into efforts to fight human trafficking.
“I think we should know that as we [discuss human trafficking], we don’t bear the burden on ourselves,” Richmond said. “God is not calling us to fix things. He’s calling us to follow him. And following Jesus is not living cautiously; it’s risking it all, because what Jesus wants to do — to bring justice to the world —- is worth it.
After chapel, Richmond was joined by Mischa Martin, the director of the division of children and family services for the Arkansas Department of Human Services, for a discussion about human trafficking.
Richmond and Martin educated listeners on human trafficking and shared why they are passionate about combating it.
“It became aware to me that it’s happening in our state,” Martin said. “And once you know something so awful and tragic that’s happening to not only minors, but also adults … how do you turn away from that? How do you walk away and not do something?”
Richmond said his care for this issue comes from his knowledge that Jesus cares about people, who are called to have his attitude and not our own.
“The more you walk with him, the more you conform to who he is,” Richmond said.
He added that human dignity is the foundation for human rights, saying that ultimately, seeing everyone as inherently valuable would bring about a culture of justice.
“If we actually believe that everybody matters, that everybody is God’s kids, it deconstructs racism,” Richmond said. “It deconstructs gender-based violence. It deconstructs everything, because everybody is now his brother and sister who are all God’s kids, and we treat them differently. We treat them with respect.”