VATICAN CITY — An Irish missionary in the Philippines warned that the chaos and hunger in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan provide the perfect setup for child traffickers.
Columban Fr. Shay Cullen, who has lived in the Philippines since 1969, explained the phenomenon to Fides, the Vatican's missionary news agency.
"Under the pretext of saving or taking care of children, traffickers kidnap them and sell them to pedophiles," Fr. Cullen told Fides. "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."
Fr. Cullen said 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. "These children are in need of immediate attention, to be saved from the clutches of traffickers and pedophiles."
Decades ago, Fr. Cullen helped found PREDA – People's Recovery, Empowerment Development Assistance Foundation – a human rights social development organization that works with the most vulnerable, including women and children. He told FIDES that PREDA had sent skilled social workers to central Philippines, where the Nov. 8 typhoon had its greatest impact, to help protect children.