by Father Shay Cullen
This article was originally featured in The Manila Times
After forty years of rescuing children from bars, brothels, and from the clutches of pedophiles and campaigning to end sex-slavery in the Philippines it is clear that the challenge is greater than ever. It is a worldwide evil and we have to rise up together to meet this challenge.
During the past three decades, there was far less awareness as to the extent of the sexual exploitation of children and women and human trafficking was not a term frequently used then. There were few to stand up against it. This ecumenical gathering is evidence that things have greatly changed.
There was an unhealthy and life destructive tolerance of the sex industry and business establishments were then and now considered an important part of tourism. Sex-tourism is still encouraged and common and operates openly with local government permits and licenses humanly degrading and destructive as it is.
Challenging and questioning this state of affairs was not an apostolic work or concern even for Church leaders. Even today some discourage engagement with the victims of sexual exploitation and child abuse. Some impede it.
I was discouraged by our Bishop in the 1970s from working with and for these outcasts and degraded people. They were stigmatized and labeled sinners. Even thought it was to these that the Gospel message is "Good News". Jesus of Nazareth gave them compassion, understanding, and an important and rightful place in the life of the Christian community.
But the very good news was and is, that the dignity and equality of women were established by Jesus and the child was declared to be the most important in the Kingdom. It was a good news message that was soon forgotten and suppressed when the Church became institutionalized and male-dominated. It opened the way for women and children to be considered as chattels and property, degraded and
abused with impunity.
Even today it is difficult to convince bishops and pastors that this is where we need to be in solidarity with the victims of this crime. These are the captives that need to be released, the downtrodden that need to be helped to stand up, healed, and given back their stolen rights and human dignity.
The rich who enable and allow vulnerable and poor people to victimized by human traffickers by apathy and indifference that need to be put down form their political and religious thrones and sent away empty.
It's now a new era and most significant is the declaration of the ecumenical gathering of religious leaders in past months calling sex slavery a crime against humanity by the gathering convened by Pope Francis.
The concerned community of people actively working to end sex slavery and human trafficking has grown and this gathering of so many for these Ecumenical Advocacy Days is a show of strength and how greatly the knowledge and awareness and action have grown. As the Apostol James has written two thousand years ago Faith without action is dead. www.preda.org Read Ricky and Julie by Shay Cullen