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Human trafficking in Manila: The resurrection of Jessica

The love of Christ can save even a 'lost child' corrupted by traffickers and abused as a play thing by foreign sex tourists

Human trafficking in Manila: The resurrection of Jessica

Children play in front of crosses during Holy Week observance on the outskirts of Manila in the Philippines. (Photo by Angie de Silva/ucanews.com)

Father Shay Cullen, Manila
Philippines

April 17, 2018

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Jessica was a lost child wandering the streets of a Philippine city, picked up by a human trafficker and brought to various places where she was sold as a commodity to foreign sex tourists.

At just 14 years of age, she didn't know what was happening to her. She was raped, exploited and robbed of her virginity. She became angry at the world and felt she was nothing and had nothing.

Similar stories can be heard from many children of farm workers. Others are lured into this deplorable underworld and robbed of their childhood under the false pretense of becoming "cybersex stars."

She felt she had no future, no present, and no past. She was hopeless. When rescued and placed in government shelters, she escaped several times.

She was an aggressive and angry young, uneducated teenager filled with hatred and pain.

In desperation, social workers brought Jessica to the Preda home for girls, an open home where there are no guards, no fences and no high walls. The children are free to leave, although almost all of them choose to stay and try a life in a happy community.

Jessica stayed. She was given the choice with respect, affirmation, dignity, and the importance and rights that are her due. She found hope, encouragement and support.

She volunteered for "emotional expression therapy" and there in the cushioned room she cried and shouted out all the pain, hurt, frustration and hatred she carried deep within her since childhood.

After weeks, she began to change her self-awareness and self-knowledge and grew self-confident and found within herself the courage to file charges against her abusers and find justice.

She was already a strong and empowered young lady. It was suffering, death to the past life and the beginning of new life.

It was a kind of resurrection for Jessica, a coming to life from a dark, pain-filled existence to a bright, hope-filled future with exciting new possibilities of friendship and education and a life of fulfillment.

So it is with hope that change is possible and that change can be effected in individual lives like that of Jessica, and so too with thousands of other lives.

From the darkness of social evil, injustice and all the pain and suffering, hope brings change and makes healing possible. A cruel dictator can be thrown down from his throne of arrogance and the trampled-upon can recover and stand up to live again.

That is the message of the Gospel story of the man from Nazareth who was so rejected by the leaders, the elders and the mob that he, a good person of absolute integrity, was falsely accused, framed, charged and made to suffer the death penalty.

He spoke about truth, justice, human dignity and the rights of all, especially children and women. He preached equality and sharing and he denounced hypocrisy, exploitation and oppression and he called for change and injustice to end.

Yet having lived a good life caring for others, healing and supporting the weak and the poor and the needy, forgiving those who needed forgiveness, he was judged and condemned as a criminal and nailed to an instrument of cruel barbaric death.

After such apparent total failure, the scattering of his followers, the collapse of his mission, then what appeared to all to be an end of change in the world, hope lived on.

He was alive and lived on in the thoughts, imaginations, feelings and in the belief of his followers.

His powerful, intoxicating words promising a happier life if we loved each other instead of killing, maiming and hurting one other was possible. A life of equality and dignity for all was still possible, like snowdrops emerging in the depth of winter.  

Jessica shared in that same hope and experienced that new life because she came to believe in herself because others inspired by the values of the Man from Nazareth gave her courage, support, care, friendship and comfort in her darkest hours.

 

Irish Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City, Central Luzon, the Philippines in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sex abuse.

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