Fillipino children who were left orphaned by Typhoon Hayian last month are enduring yet another threat as they become victims of unscrupulous sex traffickers.
“In addition to wind, rain and devastation, now comes another storm: that of human exploitation and trafficking of children, who are in the sights of unscrupulous traffickers,” said Father Shay Cullen, an Irish Columban missionary and founder of PREDA.org – a nonprofit dedicated to the welfare of children.
“You can see posters showing photos of children between 3 to 15 years of age who have mysteriously disappeared, probably kidnapped and sold. Five children have been rescued by social workers: they had been lured by traffickers. These were foreigners who said they wanted to bring them in Manila: it was probably for the purpose of sexual exploitation,” Fr. Cullen told Spero News.
Thousands of Filipinos in the hardest hit areas of the country are suffering from the massive storm that left thousands dead and an estimated $8.2 billion in damages.
The plight of the children, who have already endured the trauma of losing their parents and homes, is especially tragic because of how the unscrupulous take advantage of their helplessness.
“Under the pretext of saving or taking care of children, traffickers kidnap them and sell them to pedophiles,” Fr Cullen told Fides just after the Nov. 8 storm hit. “Or they earn large sums of money by providing the children for illegal adoptions. Even worse, they introduce them into the world of prostitution, making them slaves of sexual exploitation.”
Hungry and homeless children “are the main victims of jackals who seize them for child abuse or human trafficking. It is a horrible prospect, but it is extremely realistic in the case of natural disasters,” he said.
“More than one million children are victims of prostitution and sexual exploitation, and will spend a terrible Christmas in the Philippines”, continued Fr. Cullen.
It is especially at Christmas that he feels it is necessary to proclaim the human rights of the poor, the oppressed, and the hungry.
“Christmas is a symbol of life and friendship. It is a time to strengthen our spiritual values, reflecting on the mystery of life, renewing our faith and finding our strength to act to save the exploited, the abused and those who are hungry.”
Keep the Filipino people – and especially the children – in your prayers this Christmas. Many of them are living in makeshift camps with nothing but plastic sheeting over their heads. To help, visit CRS or PREDA.
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