Understanding Youth and Fighting Social Evil

by Fr. Shay Cullen

| Photo by Keagan Henman on Unsplash

The condition of many hundreds of thousands of youth in the Philippines today is a sorry and pain-filled situation of neglect, physical, emotional, verbal, psychological, and sexual abuse. They are a lost generation as broken homes proliferate, hundreds of thousands of couples live together without the commitment of marriage and child protection and child support. Teenagers and adults have children and abandon them. Men and women go their own ways and leave the children with aging grandparents unable to cope with emotionally disturbed and parentless teenagers.

The abandoned youth are without money, are hungry, need support, friendship, care, and the chance of a normal life. They join street gangs to survive. Politicians condemn them as youth with criminal minds. They feel unwanted, rejected, and without any positive future. They seem to have been abandoned by both church and government.

Alice is the victim of a broken home. Her father abandoned her mother, and when she was a 14-year old teenager, he showed up again and took her to live with him in Subic. There, he sexually abused her. When she could take it no longer, she did not find a welcome or assistance in the church to help her or the government agency. Still, she bravely got help and protection from a friend and was brought to a charitable child protection shelter and later filed charges against her biological father.

“The children are sometimes supplied by their parents and frequently abused by their biological father or live-in partner of the mother. Then, they are farmed out to others to abuse. You may not know it, but child abuse is as common and frequent as riding a bus.”

She is one of the hundreds of thousands of children sexually abused daily. An estimated 100,000 girls are trafficked into the sex industry, annually according to Unicef. Since the pandemic hit the Philippines, much of the evil business has gone online. The children are sold like commodities to sex customers and delivered to their hotel rooms or apartments for rape as regular as pizza delivery. That’s how corrupt this country has become, a children’s playground for online pedophiles sending money for sex abroad. Local pedophiles are having a continual “fiesta of child abuse.”

The machismo culture has a motto: “Get them young.” The children are sometimes supplied by their parents and frequently abused by their biological father or live-in partner of the mother. Then, they are farmed out to others to abuse. You may not know it, but child abuse is as common and frequent as riding a bus.

“Every five minutes, a woman or child is raped, according to the Center for Women’s Resources research. The degradation and abuse are so pervasive in society that seven- to ten-year-old boys are influenced and have been caught having raped five- and six-year-old girls.”

The abusers claim the child gives consent and they are legally covered. The children, in reality, cannot freely give consent at a young age, but the Philippine law allows sex with a child from 12 years old, one of the lowest in the world. In Japan, it is 13 years old. The accused use this provision of the penal code as a defense if ever they are charged in court, which is rare and unusual. Parents can pressure the child to say she “loves the older man.” That provision of the Penal Code is one reason for the proliferation of child sexual abuse and human trafficking of children. Hopefully, the bill that will change the law will be speedily approved by the Senate, and it will change the age of consent to 16 years.

One in every four youth- boys and girls- are victims of sexual abuse by biological fathers, live-in fathers, grandfathers, relatives, clergy, and local pedophiles. Some parents and relatives sexually abuse their young children online to earn money. Every five minutes, a woman or child is raped, according to the Center for Women’s Resources research. The degradation and abuse are so pervasive in society that seven- to ten-year-old boys are influenced and have been caught having raped five- and six-year-old girls. They have been influenced by the child sexual abuse material allowed on the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) servers and viewed on cellphones and the internet.

What kind of society has the Philippines become? Certainly, not a more virtuous, innocent, and morally strong society. A serious negative and corrupt influence has eroded the higher moral values that once infused the culture formed by the Gospel values of Christianity that were once a socially active faith. That has radically changed. It is now more a faith without action. One that is dead in many ways.

The institutional church seems to have abandoned its duty to protect and stand for human rights and children’s and family rights and dignity. Many bishops and conservative priests are silent about clerical child sexual abuse, abuse in the family and society, the spread of sex hotels, and trafficking of children and youth. They ignore the plight of young people jailed in sub-human conditions, tortured and abused behind bars.

Those true Christians, priests, bishops, and laypeople who live out the social message of Jesus of Nazareth with the true spirit of the gospel are being harassed, threatened, jailed, and killed.

“The children and youth need a vigorous defense from the abuse they suffer. It is all too easy to blame the youth for leaving their homes, living on the streets, and stealing to survive.”

For the past many years, the government has descended into a quagmire of corruption and moral degradation. Killing suspects with impunity and violating human rights. Too many local governments have supported the sex industry by issuing licenses and permits to bars and clubs and sex hotels, allowing human trafficking and child abuse to continue and spread.

The children and youth need a vigorous defense from the abuse they suffer. It is all too easy to blame the youth for leaving their homes, living on the streets, and stealing to survive. When they have been abused, kicked and beaten, and rejected by their unloving parents, where else can they go and survive when all they have is a t-shirt and shorts? They need to be welcomed, understood, sheltered, affirmed and given a chance to find life when they have no loving, caring family. That is the one thing that we all desire above all else. It is our duty to give them that chance.

We are called to speak out to protect the children from abuse and take a stand and live out the moral values of the Gospel, the sacredness of life and the well-being and human rights and dignity of the people, and speak and rally against moral evil in society.

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