Muff, Co. Donegal near Derry, Ireland – A gathering of returned missionaries at the I.O.S.A.S Center (Island of Saints and Scholars) recalled the long tradition of Irish missionaries leaving families and friends and going to foreign lands for life to bring the Gospel message of God’s love and to build up the community of justice and faith.
Hundreds of Irish missionaries lived and worked among the poor and oppressed and brought education and hope to countless people in the Philippines and countries all over the world. Many stayed with the people through war and pestilence and gave hope and help.
Several were like Jesus of Nazareth; reviled, betrayed, imprisoned and some were murdered. Why did they do it?
Missionaries going to the developing nations during the past sixty years and more have been shocked and appalled at the extent of hunger and poor farming methods and the inequality and exploitation of the small farmers. Many saw the need to help the hungry to feed themselves. They began helping them with economic development projects, human rights advocacy for the oppressed and brought improved methods of food production. The goal was to help the communities to become self sustaining and to produce more nutritious food and emerge from poverty. The Gospel calls all to share and bring equality and justice to all.
In the world today, there are one billion people suffering from a lack of food and go hungry. Early childhood hunger is the most damaging to a nation. The children are stunted and they suffer brain deficiency and cannot learn and do skilled work.
They ought to redirect their fund towards changing the priorities of local governments so that they will invest more public funds and resources to helping people be empowered to help themselves. Many officials are irresponsible and seek to enrich themselves. This means that a portion of development funds should be directed to the human development and social education of local government officials so they are aware of the law and their duties to implement it. They need to be sensitized and dedicated to the dignity and rights of the people they are elected to serve.
All too often under the noses of local officials, trafficking of people is rampant. Women and children are the people that are neglected and fall prey to the recruiters and pimps that come to traffic, lure and trap them into prostitution with false promises of providing jobs with high pay. Breaking the cycle of poverty and the trafficking of the poor is one of the mission goals of the Preda foundation, I told the audience at the IOSAS centre.
Mission is to strive in many ways to make this a more honest and just world for the poor.
All of us should be on mission. Everybody is called to be involved and put our faith into action for the poor. Otherwise as St. James writes, “Faith is dead without action”.
It also means changing political and economic and even the military situation to bring peace, justice and the protection of children from traffickers, sex tourists and abusers. I began my mission many years ago in Olongapo city, the port of the US Navy 7th fleet and the brothel city of South East Asia. There were dozens of street children and prostituted children, others struggling to survive having been abandoned by their American fathers and left to a very uncertain future. The mission I undertook was to save as many as I could and change the cycle of poverty and exploitation.
I set up Preda foundation to provide a home and education and therapy so they could have a life of dignity; hundreds have been rescued from jails, brothels and abusers. Others have received an education and employment through the foundation. It continues today. After a ten-year campaign to close the military bases and convert them into economic zones, they were closed, and today as many as 120,000 are employed at Clarke and Subic.
Today, part of that mission is to change the negligent attitudes of local and national government and to establish more democratic ways to bring the people into the decision making process so that policies are made and implemented to better the lives of the people and end corruption.
The G8 states and the smaller nations can help change this situation greatly by linking foreign aid to the people’s participation and progress made by local government in respecting human rights and alleviating poverty and protecting women and children. We can all help in our own way. e-mail: email@example.com; Post to: St. Columbans, Manor Hill Road, Solihull, West Midlands, UK.
(Fr. Shay’s columns are published in The Universe, The Manila Times, in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)
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