For the past ten years, Yuri Mantilla has dedicated his time and talents to Focus on the Family’s international relations work serving as a voice for preborn babies, marriage and religious freedom on a global scale. One of his longtime dreams, he said, has been to share with future generations what he has learned about international law from the Christian worldview.
And it’s about to happen.
Shortly after Mantilla earned his Ph.D. in law from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, he applied for and was awarded a professor position at a well-known Christian university. This is his last week at Focus.
Mantilla spoke with CitizenLink about his new role, and shared insights on how working at Focus has helped prepare him for it.
CitizenLink: Congratulations on your new position, Yuri. Would you mind telling us about what you’ll be doing in your new role?
Yuri Mantilla: My position is associate professor of law at Liberty University in Virginia. It’s a Christian University — one of the largest Christian universities in the world. Also, I will be director of international outreach for the law school. The objective is to promote a Christian worldview of international law, to be able to bring lawyers from around the world that share our Christian world views so they will be equipped on international law issues. So they will be able to understand the importance of religious freedom, international family law, international law and bio-ethics. Then these lawyers will be able to go back to their countries, and will be able to defend fundamental human rights, such as the right to life at the time of fertilization; marriage as a union between a man and a woman; and religious freedom. I am really excited to be able to do that type of work at Liberty University.
CL: You said this has been a dream of yours for a while. What are some reasons this is such a passion of yours?
YM: I studied law in many different law schools. Right now, the main ideas in international law are based on secular ideas. I have seen how these international legal ideas are influencing national organizations. That’s why we have international lawyers who are promoting gender identity, and sexual and reproductive rights, as if those were fundamental human rights — as if those concepts were part of international law. This means they are using a narrative, a discourse, in international law to promote the legalization of abortion and same-sex marriage around the world; often this leads to violations of religious freedom. Therefore, my dream has been to try to be part of a movement of a law school where we teach true human rights; where we can have a proper understanding of international law from a Christian worldview perspective; and where we can focus on fundamental norms such as the right to life, marriage between a man and a woman and international freedom. As Christians we need to be ready to compete with the best minds around the world. Our students, the future leaders of countries — they have to be able to compete with students who go to Harvard, Yale, Stanford. They have to be able to compete consistent with the Christian worldview. I want my future students to be the best Christian international lawyers.
CL: What do think it will it be like for you to be a mentor for future lawyers?
YM: One of my main mentors is Professor David Llewellyn, who was the dean of Trinity International University international school of law. He’s very knowledgeable, a very strong Christian. All of these years I have been talking with him. I got my masters in international human rights when he was the dean Simon Greenleaf University, which later became Trinity University. He has always encouraged me to become a professor; he has encouraged me to get my Ph.D. I am so thankful to Professor Llewellyn. He’s so happy about my new position with Liberty University. I hope I can help mentor my students and help them be the best in what they do. I want to encourage them spiritually to follow Jesus Christ — to know that Christ is the only one who can changes lives. He is the only one who can transform lives. The final source of law is the Bible; we have to follow that. I pray that I will be able to do same as Professor Llewellyn — with my students — as he as encouraged me all these years.
CL: You have been at Focus for 10 years. In what ways has your time here helped prepare you for your role as a professor?
YM: Focus on the Family means so much for my life. I had the privilege to work, initially, with Jim Daly, our CEO, when he was the vice president for international relations, and now with Tom Minnery, our vice president for government affairs. At Focus on the Family, I learned how to speak with ambassadors and diplomats at the United Nations. I had the privilege to speak, for example, in briefings in Geneva. I’ve the opportunity to meet with presidents of other countries. I’ve had the opportunity because of Focus on the Family to travel around the world and meet with governmental officials in Latin American countries. I’ve also had the opportunity to speak before members of Congress in Costa Rica. I’ve had the opportunity to debate on prime-time television programs in many Latin American countries, and also some in the United States. This was the best opportunity to know how to influence high-level government officials, diplomats, international lawyers, and learn how to have dialogue with them and influence pro-family, pro-life perspectives in international relations. These were all the incredible experiences. I have had amazing things happen here at Focus. I think that serves me so well to be able to not only teach the theory of international law but to teach how it really works when you try to influence ambassadors and diplomats at the United Nations, so that they will promote international declarations and international treaties that are consistent with the pro-life, pro-family perspective.
CL: What can you tell us about the importance of having a Christian worldview in international law and in other areas of our lives?
YM: As Christians we need to be optimistic about the future, because we know that Jesus Christ is alive and well. We know we are going to Heaven. We know that Jesus Christ has the power to transform lives and societies. And because of that we need to have a commitment to be the best that we can in all areas of life and in all areas of knowledge, including international law. We need to understand that the Christian worldview is the most powerful foundation for international relations and international law. We need to have that understanding. We need to wait and see what God is going to do. I cannot wait to see how the Lord is going to help international lawyers around the world to accomplish the objectives of His kingdom. It’s very important to be excited about being a Christian and about what God has given us.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Read “Friday Five: Austin Ruse Discusses the U.N.’s Attack on Life, Family.”
Read the U.N.’s “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”