Tag Archives: Mission

8 February: The Attempted Abduction of Jemma

A longer posting than usual for the Feast of Saint Josephine Bakhita, the saint saved from slavery. Fr. Shay Cullen, who wrote this, works in the Philippines, alongside other Christians who care for the ravaged environment, and also for children ravaged by the sex industry. Both ministries are part of the bigger picture of the Church’s mission.

It’s a case of child abuse and human trafficking that has caught much media attention. It is being held in the court of Honorable Judge Maria Angelica T. Paras-Quiambao, Regional Trial Court Branch 59, Angeles City, a judge of known integrity. It concerns a US national, John R. He is accused of sexually abusing two young girls, call them Sybil and Jemma (not their real names).The younger Jemma is 13 and Sybil is 14 years old. John R. allegedly paid his pimp CM to recruit them and bring to his apartment where he sexually abused them many times.

The two children were rescued by the social workers of Mabalacat, Pampanga and of the Preda Foundation. The children were brought to the Preda home for girls in Zambales where they were successfully undergoing recovery.

The US investigative service at the US Embassy has taken a serious interest in the case and they have already interviewed Jemma and Sybil. They will eventually file charges against John R. in the USA under the US extra-territorial jurisdiction law and perhaps his supporter, Lilian May Zimmer. He is presently in hiding and Philippine arrest warrants have been issued against him.

Last March 6, there was a large rescue operation in Mabalacat and twenty children were rescued from the Golden Victory Hotel and another resort. There, the twenty children had been lured and recruited to engage in sexual relations with local and foreign sex tourists. The twenty girls were referred to the Preda home for girls where they were welcomed and assisted in every way with kindness and understanding. They were given emotional support, shelter, clothes, and personal needs. Their parents were invited over to be with them. There were many emotional scenes as the parents embraced their rescued children and they were reunited.

In the days and weeks that followed, they slowly recovered and began to realize how they had been exploited and abused and that it was detrimental to their lives. Their futures were being destroyed and their chances of finishing school were dashed.

In the Preda Foundation home for girls, they had group dynamics, art and crafts, training sessions, games, sports, karate, dance and counseling. Above all and most importantly, they had the Emotional Release Therapy. In the padded therapy room away from the central house, they shouted, screamed and punched and pounded the cushions in releasing their anger, hatred and anguish at what had been done to them by the sex tourists, recruiters and pimps. Some even blamed their parents for neglecting them and not showing them love and care. In the Preda home, not all were happy at being taken from the life of exploitation and abuse. There were three girls that wanted to go back to the sex industry placed there by corrupt parents.

Preda respects the dignity and rights of the youth and children and it is an open center. There are no high walls, fences or guards. Most of the children go to a regular school in the community and many activities are conducted outside. The children are not prisoners and confined. They are there by free choice.

The three girls were hostile, one of them, call her Martha (not her real name), recruited Sybil to leave and join her on sex strip known as Fields Avenue in Angeles City where there are dozens of sex bars and foreign sex tourists paying money to have sex with young girls. Some are caught like John R. It is an open slave trading market on the streets and in the sex bars. They operate with city permits and inside is a fiery fiesta of young flesh, a sex carnival for cash.

Sybil left with Martha and fell under the power and influence of the family of Martha and the mother of CM. Jemma was happy at the Preda Home. One day, when Jemma was at the school sports parade, the mother of CM, the father and the aunt of Jemma and Sybil, rushed into the parade and grabbed Jemma, the key witness, to abduct her and carry her away to a waiting car. Jemma broke away and the Preda social worker was there to embrace and hold her safely from them. They ran away when the barangay tanods came over. The entire incident was caught on CCTV.

The attempted abduction was well-organized and funded as the participants are penniless. It must be presumed that John R., the American, is paying large sums of money for the abduction and prevent the witnesses from testifying in court. Then, the charges of human trafficking against CM might be dismissed against her. It’s an evil plan to thwart justice. The Preda Foundation filed charges of grave coercion against the father and aunt of Sybil and the mother of CM.

Supporting this sex mafia in Angeles City online from the USA is the alleged child sexual abuser, Lilian May Thompson Zimmer, a US national that is constantly criticizing the good work of Preda and making baseless allegations. In 2014, Preda reported Zimmer for child neglect and abuse done by her against five small children held by Zimmer in her house in Subic, Zambales. She has retaliated ever since.

They have testified that she tortured them and burnt one with cigarettes. They said Zimmer brought them to sex perverts on Baloy Beach, in Trader Ric’s, where they were sexually abused. A hateful, violent person, Zimmer attacked police and social workers when they came to rescue the children. She spent a year in jail but allegedly bribed her way out and escaped to the USA. She is now allegedly promoting the abduction of Jemma and supporting the abusers who are keeping Sybil from testifying in the court of Judge Paras-Quiambao.

More development are expected soon as the US authorities have been asked to investigate Lilian May Zimmer under the extra-territorial jurisdiction law where child trafficking for sexual abuse is a serious offense. One day, justice will be done to address her evil abuse of the children and CM and John R. will go to jail.

This and much more about the Preda foundation can be found here.

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February 7, Praying with Pope Francis: Listen to the Migrants’ Cries.

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Pope Francis’s mission prayer for February is: We pray that the cries of our migrant brothers and sisters, victims of criminal trafficking, may be heard and considered.

Pope Francis made a point of visiting Lampedusa within days of becoming Pope. That is the Italian island, close to the North African shore, where many migrant ships and boats have landed. The cross is one fashioned by an Italian artist from the timbers of such a boat, stranded on the island, its battered paint reminding us of the dangers of even such a short crossing.

The Colombian artist Oscar Murillo created this scene of waiting migrants for the 2019 Turner Prize exhibition in Magate, Kent. In a darkened room that would overlook the sea if a blackout curtain was not there, they sit in rows, waiting. Is it a church they are in, with its wooden benches, or a run-down station waiting room? Either should be a safe place, but it’s clear that this is not: the benches have been hacked about, and that only recently.

The three men on the right hand end of the benches seem to be listening: listening to someone or listening for someone? Are they waiting for a foreman’s call to work, one day at a time, or for the train to take them where they can earn for their families back home? Imagine your own stories.

murillo migrants

The two women on the front row have been eviscerated, their wombs and vital organs replaced by lengths of what looks like stainless steel waste gas ducting.

Hands pressed hard against the bench, the figures are ready to move, but where to? Each one is isolated in his or her own suffering, yet they form a group in our eyes. But let us remember that they stand for individual human beings with families and loved ones who may be anxious over them, hearing no news from the waiting room, the salle des pas perdus as the French have it, the place of lost footsteps. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here?

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17 January, Church Unity week: Rebuild my Church

 

st damiano wall repaired

On the train towards Assisi, a Canadian was singing the praises of the Saskatoon winters, ’40° below, Fahrenheit or Celsius’, then announced to whoever was not listening, ‘In North America we would knock these buildings down and build something bigger; but here they repair and restore them.’

This particular wall is a stiff walk up from the railway station, at San Damiano in Assisi, the place where Saint Francis heard the call from the Crucified to ‘Rebuild my Church, which is falling down.’ That is a story that the Franciscans are living to this day; it was not just the ruinous chapel of San Damiano that needed rebuilding, but the whole of God’s Church, a project that should involve every group of people who claim to be Christian.

Pope Francis is calling us to rebuild the Church for today and tomorrow. What might that look like? A brand new building or a much-loved one, patched, repaired and altered to house a changing mission, and stones which the builders may have rejected in the past?

This wall is hundreds of years old; how many times has it been altered – and drastically altered – to fulfil changing needs or to strengthen it after earthquakes or erosion? For sure the big arch replaced he smaller one, to create a cart shed maybe, but in its turn it was no longer needed, so was filled in with irregular stone, its crest replaced by a horizontal course to support a new floor.

Successive architects could not have foreseen how their wall would become less fit for purpose, but they confidently built what was needed in their own life time. And that too would be rebuilt, centuries later.

Even today repairs and alterations continue around the monastery to make pilgrims welcome: electricity, running water, more even floors and steps, but the core of the church is as it was. The notice on the wall says that this is a Unesco World Heritage Site, not, though, a museum.

Our Faith is more precious than any Unesco heritage site. We will not preserve it as a treasure hidden in a field (or around San Damiano, an olive grove) but by bringing into the open, and using, treasures old and new.

Let us pray during Christian Unity Week, which begins tomorrow, for courage in our daily mission to rebuild Christ’s church together.

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December 6, Praying with Pope Francis: The Future of the Very Young

barf.4.st.nicholasPope Francis’s Missionary Intention for December is:

That every country take the measures necessary to prioritise the future of the very young, especially those who are suffering.

Today is the Feast Day of Saint Nicholas, an early Greek Christian bishop who is counted as patron of children. Here he is with three little boys he is said to have rescued, his cope decorated with gold coins for the dowries he paid to protect three girls from human trafficking. He is holding an image of Barfrestone church in Kent; the Latin says ‘St Nicholas, patron of this church.’

Nicholas was a popular saint because he did what he could for children. Pope Francis is not thinking merely of governments looking after the children in their own countries, but of our care – we as members of our nations – doing what we can for the children in our own countries and elsewhere in the world. Even a packet of biscuits in the food bank, or a few pounds or euros to an education or health charity can provide for the future – perhaps the immediate future – of a child in danger.

On the feast of the patron of children, let us pray for children everywhere, and for all those who care for them, parents, teachers, health workers.

  • Saint Nicholas, pray for us.
  •  Come Lord Jesus, Emmanuel.

 

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November 29: the Apostle Andrew and Dover.

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With November slipping into December, it’s time to remember Saint Andrew, Apostle and mariner, missionary and martyr, whose feastday is tomorrow.

We passed through his parish in Dover on our L’Arche Kent Pilgrimage in May. All walkers received a sticker with a fish, designed by Ines, one of the community.

The Parish website tells us:

The ancient Buckland Yew Tree suggests that Christian worship has taken place on the site for many centuries, possibly as long as the Christian message came to these shores.

Yew trees are evergreen, and so have been seen as a symbol of eternal life. Ancient yews are to be found at many of the churches we visited on our pilgrimage, including Coldred, Barfrestone, Patrixbourne, and Saint Mildred’s in Canterbury, which is hollow enough for Abel to hide in! Some yews are reckoned to be older than the church beside them: not the first nor the last pagan sites to be Christened.

The present church dates back to 1180, but the Doomsday Book records the fact that there was already a church on the site by 1086. The church is dedicated to St Andrew, Apostle and Martyr (feast day 30th November).  The East window depicts St Andrew kneeling at the side of Our Lord Jesus Christ clutching the church of Buckland in his hands.

The Saint holding the Church: we saw that also at Barfrestone and at Saint Mildred’s in Canterbury: an image of the Communion of Saints we profess in the Creed. ‘Our’ saint, our patron, will pray for us and bring our prayers to God.

So we thank God for the welcome we received at Saint Andrew’s – we did fill a couple of pages in the visitors’ book to say thank you at the time, and left a sticker! And we pray for the parish, especially as they ar given a mission to new families on the old paper mill site.

Saint Andrew, pray for us.

Saint Andrew, pray for Dover.

Saint Andrew, pray for those in peril on the sea.

 

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24 November: The King VIII, What I Have Written.

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On the feast of Christ the Universal King, we are privileged to being you the final part of Sister Johanna’s reflections on the dialogue between Pontius Pilate, representing the Power of this world and Jesus with his spiritual power.

Pilate’s final act in Jesus’ regard is as enigmatic and confusing as anything that has ever occurred in the gospels. He affixes a notice to Jesus’ cross reading ‘Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.’ Why? Why can’t Pilate leave it alone now? Why doesn’t he retreat back into his palace after his sentencing of Jesus, away from all the turmoil? Why does Pilate watch Jesus’ final journey to Golgotha carrying his cross, and then turn up himself at Golgotha? The notice was nailed to the cross just before it was raised, or possibly afterwards – the text isn’t clear. Why was Pilate still there? Did he feel that he had unfinished business? Was he ambivalent about the sentence he had passed? Or did he simply want to have the last word, now that Jesus was nearly dead, and probably unable to say anything more?

In light of our reflections, it is not possible to interpret Pilate’s notice as a sincere gesture of sorrow, nor would it represent an awareness, coming too late, of Jesus’ true kingship in a religious sense. None of Pilate’s actions at any point in Jesus’ trial or crucifixion suggest that Pilate ever grasps the true meaning of Jesus’ words and person. Nor does it seem to me to be one last attempt by Pilate to make Jesus’ enemies see the incongruity between their vision of Jesus as a political usurper and the actual appearance of Jesus in all his brokenness on the cross, undergoing a criminal’s death. By now, Pilate is fed up with the Jewish chief priests (see John 19:21-22).

But I do think that the notice nailed to the cross represents a confession of sorts on Pilate’s part. Although Pilate sees that Jesus was no threat to his position as governor, Jesus was very much a threat to Pilate as a man and human being. Where Pilate was a shallow human being, Jesus in every word and action was a man of depth. Where Pilate would change his ideological position according to his assessment of its usefulness in gaining the right friends, Jesus was a man whose actions were always consistent with his public teaching and his deepest aspirations, his sense of identity and his mission. Where Pilate was confused, Jesus was clear-headed and calm. Where Pilate tried to win support from the crowd to bolster his position and reinforce his sense of self, Jesus was completely autonomous with reference to public opinion. Jesus was able to express who he was and what he stood for in brilliantly concise terms. Pilate had spent his entire life trying to play one side against the other, lying, flattering, bragging, unable to imagine his existence without the trappings of power. And yes, Pilate was power-hungry and insecure. He could never get enough power, never enough to feel whole and at peace. Jesus also had a kind of hunger. Pilate sensed it. But Jesus was not hungry for power. He was hungry for souls, he hungered to awaken our hunger for him. Pilate was out for all he could get. Jesus was there to give us everything he had, his very life, for our salvation. He longed for us to turn to him, but he never forced it.

I believe that some of this dawned on Pilate as Jesus was led away to be crucified. The sniffer-dog in Pilate began to find a kind of power in Jesus that Pilate had not imagined even existed. He realised that Jesus, because of the integrity of his being, did not have power as other men have it – because other men’s power was the kind of power that could be lost. Jesus would never lose his power because he was power. And he was power because he was truth. There was no disorder in Jesus, no ‘parts’ of Jesus that did not spontaneously cleave to and express truth. This was a human power that was much greater than any power Pilate himself had ever encountered in anyone, or would ever be able to possess himself, and he knew it.

In the end, Pilate was thoroughly frightened by this, but he recognized Jesus’ power for what it was, and knew that Jesus’ force in the world would transcend every power structure that had ever existed or ever would exist. Pilate found that this Jesus, this Nazarene, was indeed a king. He was king of the Jews, and king of much more. He was, in every sense, a threat to Pilate’s person and personality. Jesus was king as Pilate would never be. As no man would ever be. Pilate is clear now. Jesus must be crushed. This Nazarene, this king of the Jews, must die.

 

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27 October, Month of Mission: Prayer of Blessing.

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My catechism told me that: ‘prayer is the raising of the heart and mind to God.’ Short and sweet, but insufficient. This prayer from USPG, the Anglican missionary society, shows that we should raise all our being and the whole of creation to God – and let our prayer work within us to discern and carry out our mission of forgiveness and healing to all people, all creation. And as Saint Paul tells us, it is the Spirit that prays in us.

Blessed be God in the joy of creation.
Blessed be God in the sending of Jesus.
Blessed be God in the work of the Spirit.
Blessed be God in martyr and saint.
Blessed be God in the spread of the gospel
to every race
and every land.
Blessed be God in the church of our day
in its preaching and witness
and its treasures of grace.
Blessed be God who has called us to mission
who forgives and who heals
and is strength in our weakness.
USPG

Carving from Saint David’s Cathedral, Pembroke.

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October 24, Month of Mission: walking and working together.

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Lawrence Tukamushaba, M.Afr writes from  Kasama, Zambia, about youth work in Saint Anne’s parish. To read his post click here. After describing some of the successes of this ministry in a large parish with many communities, he touches on some challenges.

Family breakdown

A good number of our young people are raised by single parents; others have been orphaned at a young age and were brought up by their grandparents. Some have never met their fathers. Dealing with such young people needs spending time to listen to them and counselling them. Peer counselling is a skill that is needed.

The widening gap between Urban and Rural Youth

There is a growing gap between young people coming from urban and rural setups. In some areas, children have to walk 10 km on foot to reach the nearest primary school. In the rainy season, roads get really bad and some bridges are washed away. Added to that, the grass grows tall so that it becomes risky to walk in the bush and on top of all that some villages are widely scattered. In such areas it is difficult to find someone who has finished secondary school. This poses a challenge of leadership in the Church. It also increases a vicious circle of poverty.

Youth In the year 2017, I baptized 17 adults among whom were 8 school girls aged between 14 and 18 years of age who had dropped out of school. Later I discussed with their parents and church council how to ensure they go back to school. We must be interested in the formal education of our Christians if our ministry is to be transformative.

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22 October, Month of Mission : better together.

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In my reading about Archbishop Arthur Hughes there was a story from 1938 about his boss worrying. This priest was a great worrier, as it happened, but he was regional superior for Uganda, and the Superior General insisted he stay in the job.

On this occasion, Arthur Hughes was at the annual scout camp as an assistant county commissioner, not as chaplain, although there was daily Mass.

Father Superior had expected to see a separate Catholic Scout Movement such as still exist in France. It was not like that in Uganda.

Arthur Hughes and other fathers were dining with the leaders, and Father Hughes was wearing not his habit but full scout uniform including his shorts, or ‘petite culotte bombo’, apparently with the local Bishop’s approval. Hughes was ‘Mess President, General Secretary, Man of all work, and chief raconteur’, according to an unidentified newspaper report. No doubt he was enjoying himself, but why were the fathers taking orders from Protestant laymen?

Well, we might ask, why not?

Mr Lameka Sekaboga was appointed Assistant County Commissioner during the camp; even as Father Superior fretted, the organisation was being put into competent lay, Ugandan hands. It was surely better for Catholics to work with others to make this happen, Arthur Hughes could see that, his Superior could not, but concentrated on the differences that appeared to define Catholics, and within the church, to define clergy against lay people.

We now see many ministries working ecumenically: Street Pastors, food banks, refugee care, the list is long. What we can share, we should share. And salute those who made the first steps towards Churches working together.

Arthur Hughes (front, centre) and confreres about to leave for Africa.
Missionaries of Africa Archives.

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20 October: Sustainable development.

COFFEE - a young coffee plant in Maray - Peru - banner

Planting out a young coffee bush in Peru.

Another story from USPG, demonstrating once again that we are vessels of clay, and depend on the health of our planet to survive and thrive, as one people around the world.

The Revd Bonnie Evans-Hills has worked with USPG promoting the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN in the UK and beyond.

The nature of crises in the world has changed significantly in recent generations. We have reached a point where natural disasters and violent conflict present long-term concerns. Those currently displaced from their homes remain so for an average of 17 years or longer.

Environmental disaster demands longer term solutions in which the whole world must engage. We cannot clean our oceans of plastic unless nations work together. This affects fishing and other industries on which whole populations depend. When these livelihoods disappear, they won’t easily return.

The breadth of challenge facing us is unprecedented, and the choices we make today affect not only our present but generations to come. The Sustainable Development Goals seek to bring together a range of expertise working in collaboration. But while solutions to much of our environmental and social challenges are developed, it will come to nothing if we haven’t the will to implement them, which is why each nation is asked to commit to taking action.

Self-giving God, who in Christ gave yourself for our salvation, thank you that you call us into your mission for the world.
Inspire us, who are partners in the gospel, to follow in your steps, in the way that leads to fullness of life in you. Amen.

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