One of the best known Columbans is Father Shay Cullen, from the class after me, who has been fighting for abused children and women here in the Philippines, and elsewhere, since the early 1970s.
He was featured in The Irish Times the other day in an article by David McNeill, Every day without compromise.
There are a number of points in the article that I would take issue with but what cannot be denied is Father Shay's total commitment as a priest to something that most prefer not to look at. He has lobbied in a number of countries, with some success, to get parliaments to pass laws that enable countries to bring to trial their own citizens accused of abusing children elsewhere.
In his weekly column, which is published in a number of papers throughout the world and may be freely used by anyone, Father Cullen has regularly written about the way that children are often thrown into prison and left there to languish. Often their only 'crime' is poverty.
This Columban priest is trying to ensure that the Philippines won't have need for a Ryan Report 50 years from now. In the light of the impact of that report on the Irish people and the Irish church right now, he is a beacon of hope not only in the Philippines but in his native Ireland, where he is well known.
Father Shay writes a weekly column, Reflections. Here is his latest.
Child Protection is Our Primary Duty
Fr Shay Cullens's columns are published in The Manila Times,in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and online.
Every incident of the abduction and trafficking of children which is rampant in Southeast Asia and in particular, the Philippines causes me to feel angry and more determined to do all I can together with the courageous Filipinos I work with. We can only eliminate the evil by writing, campaigning, and building awareness that will change public opinion and hopefully ignite national shame and commitment to stop it. Politicians in the Philippines have failed to pass the anti-child pornography bill and so hundreds, if not thousands, of children will continue to suffer as a result.
Our efforts are having an impact because our website that promotes children's rights was attacked by a hacker last week who tried to stop people visiting it. But with computer experts we were able to defeat that attacker. Abusers don't want you to know the truth. Consider the following: One million children are brought into the sex trade every year worldwide according to the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF). The International Labor Organization (ILO) states the figure as closer to 1.8 million. This means it is growing annually. Other sources say a global estimate of 8 million is more realistic as, of this, 80 to 90 percent are girls.
They are victims of criminal activity, recruited and paid for in remote impoverished villages. They are usually run-away street children or victims of sexual or physical abuse in the home and are picked up on the city streets by pimps and traffickers and sold to sex bars and clubs. They are the impoverished slum-dogs of our generation.
Preda Foundation is based in the Philippines and has campaigned against the enslavement of children and women since its founding in 1974. Presently, thousands of Europeans, North Americans, Australian and Asian ‘sex-tourists’ make Southeast Asia and, in particular, the Philippines, a prime destination for such human rights abuses. They create a demand for commercially-sexually exploited children (CSEC) that is satisfied by the Filipino sex Mafia, criminals, and men and women who recruit and supply minors to the sex industry.
Poverty is the main cause of vulnerable semi-illiterate children. As many as 80,000 to 100,000 Filipino children are trafficked into the sex industry yearly. This huge number is due to the extensive poverty in the Philippines. The huge population of children is rapidly growing and consists of about 34 million, while the total population of the Philippines is about 87 million. Out of every 100 children, 42 are impoverished, that is 14 million hungry children uneducated and easily exploited.
Factors that favor the Philippines as a destination for ‘sex-tourists’ include the low cost of living, the prevalence of English as a commonly-spoken language, the mimicry of the American lifestyle, cheap regional flights, widespread internet promotion of cyber-sex, lack of anti-prostitution laws, no specific anti-child-pornography laws (though there is one currently in congress), low or non-implementation of child protection laws and a lack of enforced anti-trafficking laws. Other weaknesses that allow the sexual exploitation of children are the culture of impunity for foreigners, a male machismo and false sense of entitlement to abuse, ascendancy and dominance.
The foreign ‘sex-tourist’ or foreign resident is emboldened by a culture of trusting and unsuspecting Filipino hospitality. The excessive official government protection given to tourists, the failure of the rule of law, bribery in the justice system and summary deportation instead of trial for suspected child abusers and rapists encourage this abuse and exploitation.
'Cyber-sex' is the use of children in live performances over the internet for paying customers. Now it is one of the most difficult crimes for the police to eliminate. But with a strong anti-child pornography law, much could be done to slow it down and bring some of the criminals to justice. The failure of the Philippine Congress to pass the law is another abuse by omission, against children by allowing them to be exploited with impunity. All of us in many nations have to do all we can to help the children. END
Visit http://www.preda.org/ for more related articles.
Contact Fr Shay Cullen at the Preda Center, Upper Kalaklan, 2200 Olongapo City, Philippines. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
PREDA Information Office, PREDA Foundation, Inc.