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PREDA NEWSLETTER Christmas 1998

December 2, 1998 · 

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What Makes a Happy Christmas?

Everywhere you see huge signs of Merry Christmas, Santa’s and reindeers with bells and lights bringing good cheer and saying we should be happy.

Perhaps we should, but why?

If not for the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ and what he taught and did for us, the world would have far less compassion and love justice and dignity. Children might still be considered the property of parents and have no rights and dignity. Human rights came to us with the revelation that we are not to be controlled or dominated by others but by God’s children with everlasting value. This dignity has to be defended and shared to all.

Happiness for us is not acquiring materialistic things of this world but it comes from the experience of overcoming dangers, risks, threats, false charges and being able to help the abused children and bring the abusers to justice.

We know that you share in this faith and in the work that we all do together. You help us by your prayers and your commitment to justice. We do it for them, the beaten and the abused and know that whatsoever we for them, we do to Him, who sacrificed himself for us, endured every false charge, every threat and every death itself. It all began that first Christmas night.

Childhood for Children Project
This has to be a happier Christmas than last year simply because there is more love and happiness to go around in the PREDA Family and there are more who needs lots of it. There are now 37 children in the PREDA Childhood for Children family. This time last year there was 20.

The dedicated PREDA social workers and house parents are on duty, by rotation, twenty-four hours a day. They are constantly advising the children, resolving arguments, encouraging supporting, being patient, kind and affirming.

All this despite the fact that 37 children with severe emotional problems, histories that we cannot imagine, coming from broken homes, betrayed and abused and with nowhere to go, live in peace and harmony in the PREDA Children’s Community.

Thanks to the hardworking Filipino staffers who continue helping the children. This Christmas their love for these children is a cause of happiness. Who else could undertake such a difficult task?

Teaching the Good News of Children’s Rights

It will be a happier Christmas too because more children have been helped not only in PREDA but through the extensive out-reach programs to thousands of children in schools, who have participated in the many cultural and educational events that the PREDA Public Education Project organized for children and youth this year.

More than four thousand youth and children joined in workshops and seminars on youth and children’s rights were delighted and excited to learn that they have extensive rights under the Convention of the Rights of the Child. They began to see themselves with dignity and self-worth and truly made under the image and likeness of God’s children.

Some students found new sense of self-esteem and courage found during the seminars and came forward to report to a PREDA Staff how they had been sexually and physically abused and asked for help.

Some came to take refuge in the PREDA shelter like Julie who had been severely abused by a relative and live in mortal fear of him as he threatened to kill her and her mother if she tells anyone. He is now in jail and Julie is free to continue her studies having rid her of the trauma and fear that had stunned he emotional and intellectual growth for a long time.

Happiness is knowing that there is a greater awareness among the Filipino population in general because we have been spreading the good news about the Rights and Dignity of God’s Children. Many more are reporting the violations of these children’s rights and PREDA is helping the victims and bringing the abusers to justice.

Rescuing the Children

Happiness is being able to help rescue children from danger as if we could have rescued the Holy Family from the clutches of Herod. We are happy because of the four children recently rescued by the PREDA Investigation and Rescue Team from the child sex brothels in Angeles City about 60 kilometers from PREDA.

Together our undercover team went into the bars and clubs and contacted the very young looking “dancers”. Two of them agreed to come out for a date when the bar owner was paid a fee. One was as young as fourteen.

Instead of a date they were offered a chance to leave the bar life for good before their lives were ruined by vice and AIDS. With God’s help that of great and true Christians, Mark and Allison Weir, and their Christian community in Angeles City, opened their house and together we persuaded Gloria and Rosa to leave the den of evil and come back to PREDA. They agreed.

Then I went to the bar owner to get the personal belongings of the children but the bar manager refused and called some tough looking bouncers. We left, ran for our van, where the children were waiting together with the social workers and we took off. A car followed but we evaded it. On the fast drive to Olongapo with our precious cargo of rescued children our spare tore fell off and went careering away into the night. We kept going but it had damage another tire and soon it was being shredded and coming apart. We rattled and wobbled and ground to a halt. We hired a passing taxi and made it safely back to PREDA at 3 A.M.

Rosa the older child had already finished High School and we enrolled her in a junior college right away. What a change to see her dress in a school uniform on her way to a new life and the contrast with what we found on a sex club, there was the child prostitute, dressed in a bikini gyrating to the sounds of hell in the smoked filled and vice infested club.

A week later Mark called us again about another 14 year-old, Gina, who was working in another bar and her cousin, Melanie, who at 15 years-old was a live-in partner with a sixty-year old Australian man.

With Mark, Gina was persuaded to come to PREDA too and we contacted the parents of Melanie to get her. She is back at her home in a poor fishing village. She too will comer to PREDA next week to start a new life. She will be going back to school next semester. For us that’s Christmas happiness.

These are our gifts from God, rescued like the innocents from the clutches of the evil King Herod, who set out to massacre the innocent children and Jesus too, had not for the Three Wise Men came to the rescue with their warning and assistance. We can all be “Wise Men”, helping others overcome problems through prayer and action.

Sometimes we think that the abuse will never end, prevention is also very important.

PREDA Fair Trade, Preventing Abuse by Bringing Jobs

Rural poverty drives thousands of families to the city slums looking for jobs. They live in cramped ghettos, in worst squalor and poverty than before. The children are begging for more easily abused, they ran the streets begging and are picked up by pimps and paedophiles.

Preventing this is the work of the PREDA Fair Trade Project, which provides well paying job to hundreds of people in villages and cooperatives making migration unnecessary. PREDA exports the products and provides continues supply of orders to the producers and their families.

The PREDA Fair Trade project has provided advance payments to basket weavers, jar painters, mango and pineapple farmers and many others to fight their way out of poverty.

Sophia McColgan, a young Irish woman who was severely sexually abused by her father along with her brothers and sisters for years in their remote house in Siligo, Ireland, came to visit the Children at PREDA, to tell her story of struggle and victory against the abuse of her father and the neglect of the Social Welfare Services to help them despite 62 appeals.

Fr. Shay Cullen together with Sophia, Bing and Christina

The children were in awe and were greatly encouraged to continue their own court cases against their abusers. Sophia was in Manila to receive an International award given to brave and outstanding young people by Jaycees International and promote her book entitled “Sophia’s Story”.

By the way the “PREDA Story”, an account of past and present adventures battles and experiences working for Women’s and Children’s Rights is a work in progress and should be ready for publication by June 1999.

Winning Cases

Fighting for Children’s rights has its difficulties and challenges. When we rescue children and charge the offenders, the pedophiles who can be facing a life sentence or death penalty (which we do not support) counter charges with false allegations: kidnapping, when the government brought a child for shelter; grave oral abuse for presenting a sworn statement to the prosecutor; libel for sending out newsletters about false charges; child abuse for giving protective custody to an abused child and so on.

We had fifteen false charges to counter this year. Twelve have already been thrown out by the investigators and judges as being malicious, harassment and without basis.

So this experience shows that the judicial system can and does work for justice. Still the attacks continue and a very determined paedophile was able to get one child out of the PREDA Center so that she wouldn’t testify against him. We will with God’s help have the case reopened and the action of that judge be scrutinized by the Supreme Court.

Volunteer lay missionaries at PREDA

The three lay missionaries from left: Jamie Lee, Chris Jones and Yukiko Miyazaki

Helping us in all our projects are three dedicated and hard working volunteers, PREDA lay missionaries, two college graduates from the UK, Chris Jones and Jamie Lee and Yukiko Miyazaki from Japan. It’s great to have them with us. This is a small experimental effort to involve more young people in the work of PREDA.

Judicial Awards

The PREDA International Network of Human Rights agencies have agreed to join PREDA in launching a new international appeal for justice for children and nominating outstanding prosecutors and judges for national and international awards for defending Children’s Rights in the Judiciary.

In the past PREDA nominated Dorentino Floresta as the most outstanding prosecutor of the Philippines and he won the award. There are more to come.

Campaigns in Japan and Europe

A PREDA Director has been invited to Japan for a two week long information campaign all- over Japan and will ship there a PREDA Photo and information exhibition on Children’s Rights. This is on display in colleges in Metro Manila and Central Luzon, thousands of teachers and students have signed the PREDA Petition to the Senate to vote against the Visiting Forces Agreement or VFA that would allow US Troops back into the Philippines with immunity form prosecution.

Japan wants to learn from the Philippines experience because there is so much child abuse there are very few laws to protect them. They also have a child raped by US Troops, which they prosecuted successfully.

A PREDA Director has been invited to Japan four times on similar campaigns in recent years to promote the passing of new laws in Japan to protect children and to campaign against Military Prostitution and exploitation of minors. The campaign will be renewed in Europe too.

Two PREDA speakers are invited to the UNESCO conference in Paris this January on the Child Exploitation on the Internet and then they will go to Geneva before the committee on the right s of the child where they will present a report on child protection in the Philippines.

Internet for Good and for Bad

The international network of computers that transmits instantaneously newsletters, reports, comments, pictures and videos through the telephone lines is called the Internet.

The paedophiles, pornographers, and child traffickers and mail order bride operators sell women and children for sexual abuse from a catalog that can be accessed through a home computer.

Children who can operate a computer can be damaged by accidentally opening the sites that shows pornography. PREDA is active in trying to trace these criminals identify them and report them to the police in whatever country they operate from. This is the work we will speak about at the UNESCO Conference in France next January.

PREDA uses the Internet to reach thousands of people with our newsletters, bulletins and appeals for international action for Children’s newspapers, journals, magazines, radio stations and thousands of individuals and organizations. It is truly a global village we live in.

The happiness that we feel this Christmas, we know is your happiness too.

Father Shay Cullen, MSSC

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