Manila (Agenzia Fides) - "The hope and dream of every victim of abuse and violence is to be protected, taken care of, healed and to have justice. The mission and commitment of every Christian is to make this happen. With faith and works, we must ensure that goodness and truth overcome evil and the victims of trafficking and abuse overcome spiritual death and rise to a new spiritual and emotional life": said, on the occasion of the "World Day against human trafficking", celebrated by the UN on July 30, Fr. Shay Cullen, SSC, missionary from San Colombano, known in the Philippines for his social and pastoral commitment to child victims of exploitation and abuse. Human trafficking, notes the priest involved in the Philippines with the "PREDA" foundation, is a global problem that requires a global response. PREDA Foundation is committed daily to fighting the terrible scourge and to protecting the victims of human trafficking and contemporary forms of slavery, especially minors: forced labor, forced marriages and forced motherhood, sale of children, pornography and exploitation of prostitution. "The measures adopted at international and national level - notes the missionary - are inadequate and do not seem effective in stopping the scourge of human trafficking and children". "Very few facilities in the world are willing to help children or victims heal from the pain, trauma, fear, alienation they suffer from being trafficked, raped, abused and harassed", he notes. "An estimated 60,000 children are sexually abused each year by traffickers, according to Unicef. Another study states that 1.2 million children experience some form of online abuse in the Philippines each year", reports the missionary. "Without a change of attitude and a commitment on the part of leaders, institutions, government officials, to denounce this horrific crime, there is little chance of helping and saving victims from a life of misery, unhappiness and suffering", warns Fr. Cuellen.
"Most of the children who are victims of trafficking and abuse - he recalls - live with pain and repressed memories, but others grow in anger, even in hatred, harboring buried desires to take revenge on abusers, families, schoolmates or society in general and venting this frustration with acts of violence. Aggression, revenge and violent acts are often the result of child abuse suffered". For this reason the missionary underlines the importance of listening, understanding psychological assistance, human accompaniment, to recover the victims of abuse. Fr. Shay continues: "When encountering a case of abuse, the challenge for the social worker is to find a protection center to refer a child to. There are very few in the Philippines. President Marcos said he will ensure sufficient funding for only 70 government housing centers across the country, dedicated to women and children who are victims of trafficking and abuse. The Philippines, with a population of 110 million, needs many more centers, with professional therapeutic healing and empowerment programs rather than temporary shelters".
The PREDA Foundation has one of the most successful therapeutic communities where children are welcomed in a friendly and supportive atmosphere, are protected and accompanied. Fr. Cuellen explains: "The feeling of being safe and protected is the beginning of a healing journey. We have an average of 90 children who are taken care of in our Center over a period of 12 months, thanks to a professional staff made up of therapists, facilitators and social assistants. Giving the child a family and a place where he or she feels loved is a fundamental cure for victims of trafficking".
Also, when children reach a certain age and awareness, they can also follow a legal path, filing a formal complaint in court, to get justice. "Our ultimate goal - concluded the missionary - is to protect, treat and empower children who are victims of trafficking and abuse and give them a new happier life". (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 30/7/2022)