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Children are hurt Most by Lack of Justice

November 4, 2010 ·  By Fr. Shay Cullen

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Mincing no words, Legazpi Bishop Joel Baylon and his clergy have condemned the “rampant” vote-buying in Albay during the recent barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections, particularly among young voters.

Mincing no words, Legazpi Bishop Joel Baylon and his clergy have condemned the “rampant” vote-buying in Albay during the recent barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections, particularly among young voters.

The report a while ago about the Philippines being one of the lowest ranking countries on the index of Transparency International and tagged as “highly corrupt” should be no great surprise. Outspoken Bishop Joel Baylon of Legazpi and the diocesan clergy said in a strongly worded Pastoral Letter that “there has been an erosion of the moral fabric and corruption in village level and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) national youth elections by vote-buying. Parents encouraged their children to cheat. Even parish leaders were involved and might have to resign and the SK ought to be abolished as it a source of teaching the young how to be corrupt”, the Bishop said.

There are some brave and outspoken Bishops and priests who give leadership and inspiration to the people by taking a stand for human rights against logging and destructive mining. But many others remain silent. There is the contradiction of Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz campaigning, with official church support, against all forms of gambling, yet some dioceses accept donations from gambling syndicates and PAGCOR, the state gambling corporation.

Jesus of Nazareth spoke out, stood for the poor and the suffering victims of abuse and oppression. He courageously challenged, upbraided and spoke harshly even to corrupt civil and religious authorities. He called them whitened tombs – nice outside, but rotten inside. He was arrested and branded a criminal and executed for his words, actions, claims and stand for human dignity. His followers give their lives too. Father Cecilio Lucero and thousands of others working for justice and human dignity died by an assassin’s bullet or knife. But that is the risk the disciples take for following Jesus of Nazareth’s example and doing what it takes to be a real Christian in the world.

Too many church-goers are failing Him by hiding in the shadows of church rituals, escaping from the call to be a witness, a prophet and dedicated to getting justice or supporting those who do. The true Christian is, when possible, to be with the prisoners, the poor, the downtrodden and the hungry and the abused so as to lift them up, affirm them and empower them in body and spirit so they can campaign for their rights. We, who want to be Christians, are called to be “washers of feet”, to meet Jesus face to face in the poorest of our brothers and sisters, to walk with the farmers, to protect the environment and to be with the victims of human rights violations in order to credible in our work to challenge and be agents of change.

Today, some say it is political interference to challenge civil authorities, but let’s be clear, it is a moral intervention especially when issues of human rights, slavery, and child abuse is at stake and the dignity of the human person is involved. Nowadays, we are swamped by crimes against children; sex tourism, child sex slavery, and the prostitution of children is allowed to spread with impunity and even encouragement by government. Mayors are issuing operating permits and licenses in six days to foreign investors who pay traffickers to bring the young girls and boys to sell to their local and foreign customers. To get an accreditation renewal for a children’s home that saves and protects children, it can take up to six month or a year.

The malls, street corners, and cemeteries are the market places where children are sold for sex, even boys and girls as young as 8 years old have venereal diseases. The Child Protection Unit at the Philippine General Hospital treats hundreds of cases monthly. Sex tourism luring foreigners to get our kids and young women is now a whopping mind-boggling 14 percent of the tourist industry.

Let’s rally against that and for the protection and healing of victims of trafficking and sexual abuse. Prosecutors are facing huge temptations as the accused offers thousands of dollars to have charges dismissed. Besides, this hundreds of cases of heinous sex crimes against children are languishing and ignored by prosecutors. So for these hundreds of cases of hurting children, Mother Church is challenged to come running and heed the crying and screams of her suffering children. But we too have to act without delay.

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