Human Rights Activist and Immigration Attorney Ann Buwalda Named 2020 Alumnus of the Year
When it comes to taking down giants, Ann Buwalda has quite a few tools in her belt.
Regent’s 2020 Alumnus of the Year is a triple-degree holder from Regent University, earning her Juris Doctor (LAW ‘90) and completing two master’s degrees the following year — one in public policy and the other in international cross-cultural communication. But Buwalda will be the first to tell you that knowledge is secondary to an even greater tool: faith.
“Knowledge alone, as great as it is to have achieved and conquered your textbooks and term papers, does not give you the courage to conquer your giant,” she shares. “Prayer and relationship with God give you the faith that you need to conquer your giant.”
Buwalda has been slaying “giants” since 1991 as executive director of Jubilee Campaign USA, a nonprofit that focuses on international religious freedom and advocating for the release of prisoners of conscience; aiding in the resettlement of refugees seeking asylum; and combatting human trafficking — including protecting vulnerable women and children and providing support to victims.
Buwalda is also a managing attorney and founder of Just Law International PC, a Fairfax, Virginia-based firm, handling all aspects of immigration law, including asylum and refugee cases.
The daughter of immigrant parents from the Netherlands, Buwalda’s interest in law began at nine years old — when she had to help interpret for her parents with their American lawyer who was settling her grandfather’s estate in Holland after he passed away.
But her calling to seek justice for the oppressed came years later in her final year at Regent.
“I read in the Book of Jeremiah how Ebed- Melech intervened to rescue Jeremiah from a dungeon where he was kept imprisoned by a wicked king and other government officials for exercising his religious freedom,” explains Buwalda. “I knew then that being an Ebed-Melech for the persecuted church was God’s call on my life.”
An Ebed-Melech for people like Ayub Masih, a Pakistani Christian accused of blasphemy by an Islamist mob, jailed and sentenced to death.
For five years, Buwalda worked on Masih’s behalf, advocating for his release with the U.S. Department of State, Pakistan government leaders, and petitioning the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Eventually, her efforts succeeded and he was acquitted. Buwalda then went on to coordinate with the U.S. Department of State and Homeland Security to help Masih successfully immigrate to America, where today he is a U.S. citizen, happily married with a wife and children, and most importantly — free.
Buwalda’s dedication to the human rights field, along with her outstanding and prestigious qualifications, earned her the recognition of Alumnus of the Year — an award established in 2004 by Regent’s Office of Alumni Relations to recognize individuals who have gained elite distinction by their accomplishments and brought positive change to the world.
“It is definitely amazing to be selected amongst such prestigious alums,” said Buwalda. I use the knowledge I gained at Regent every single day.”
In her address to the Class of 2020, Buwalda encouraged graduates that if they take the perspective of Joshua and Caleb — the two spies who believed that with God’s help they could take the Promised Land in spite of the giants — they will be more than conquerors.
“Understand this: God has a plan for your life, but you’ll never fulfill it until you come into agreement with His Word. God uses imperfect people, and that makes us realize that He alone is our source, our strength, our strategy, and the secret to our success,” said Buwalda.
To learn more about Buwalda’s advocacy work with ethnic and religious minorities around the world, visit jubileecampaign.org.