Families in the Philippines are struggling to survive in the aftermath of Typhoon Hayian in this Christmas, “just like Jesus and his parents.” This was the observation made by Fr. Shay Cullen, SSC, a San Colombano missionary working in the Philippines.
In a message sent to Fides News Agency, Fr. Cullen explained the challenges facing thousands of families in the Christmas season. “ It will be a difficult Christmas, marked by hunger and suffering for the refugees camped under makeshift tents or plastic sheeting,” he stated.
“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.”
Several evacuation centers created by the missionary are assisting in efforts to protect children. Many between the ages of 3-15 have been reported missing or kidnapped amidst the chaos.
“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 said.
Fr. Cullen stressed the importance of proclaiming the human rights of the poor, oppressed and hungry in this Christmas.
“Christmas – he said – 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”