I really don’t know how to describe this man’s work, so I thought I’d start off with this really cheery picture of Father Shay Cullen and two nice looking ladies holding up a Fairtrade poster. Then I thought I’d go on to describe this priest’s parish, which in the words of Danny Smith, founder of the Jubilee Campaign, is ‘Olongapo City (in the Philippines) once described as the biggest brothel in the world’. Now how best to describe Father Cullen’s flock? Here we go,
‘Child sex slaves are chained to beds, abused daily, threatened and tortured, punched and punished, beaten and bruised and made a plaything for the powerful, a toy for the depraved. Many are murdered when no longer useful or a liability to the slave masters. Others commit suicide or perish from disease, abuse and despair’ (Father Shay Cullen,Slavery Now & Then 2007)
A long time ago (in the 80s and 90s by his account) Father Shay Cullen mildly resembled a U.S marine, because he did, he was frequently asked if he wished to buy the services of prostituted…children. That would have been enough to galvanise any decent honourable human being into action. But then the good father was notified of 18 child prostitutes, who had turned up at the local hospital, in need of treatment for a variety of sexually transmitted diseases.
Horrified and enraged (I get the distinct impression) Father Cullen went to the police, only to find that they were too corrupt to be arsed. Not so Father Cullen who having figured out who was doing the buying, and having engaged the help of the Preda Human Rights Team led by Alex Hermoso, campaigned ferociously for the removal of the naval bases fuelling the trade.
Father Cullen’s talent for being a successful nuisance was so pronounced, that the authorities tried & failed to have him deported. It was so pronounced that his life has been threatened, that notwithstanding the naval bases were closed down courtesy of the Philippines Senate in 1992. Problem solved? Problem morphed as has been proved by the sex tourism community that has sprung up in the Philippines, far away from the prying eyes of richer nations like the UK and the U.S. Who would have thought to hear a Priest say this? And I quote,
‘People have come to believe that ‘white is right’. If the foreigners do it then the practice of enslaving women and children for sexual gratification must be right for everyone. Child abuse in Philippine homes has soared in recent years and only now is the full extent being uncovered’
An estimated 1.5 million sex tourists travel to Asia each year. The trade is considered so lucrative that powerful government officials team up with pimps who have remodeled themselves as ‘tourism developers’. Yes, modern slavery is alive and well in the Philippines, due in part to incompetent officials and abusive police (does this sound familiar?). The most disquieting element of this however, are those 1.5 million sex tourists whose permanent homes are in Europe and the UK, not in the Philippines.
The picture of the naked emaciated child is not gratuitous, it is a picture of one of the hundreds of boys and girls rounded up from doorways and roadsides by police in January this year, and put behind bars, to make the poverty-racked city of Manila look more presentable, for the Pope’s visit.
Father Shay Cullen deserves a medal the size of a dustbin lid!