The Fight Against Slavery 7 November, 2007

If you scroll down you will find comments on topics such as ecology, bioethics and chimeras, Harry Potter, and the intensifying dialogue with Islam in the wake of Regensburg. (You can read the latest about the reception of the recent Islamic Message to Christian Leaders and present attempts to launch a constructive dialogue, here.) If you want a forum to discuss the reform of the Liturgy, or the meaning of life, or the Sufi influences on Led Zeppelin, go to our Events and Conversation pages.

An event I was happy to be able to attend recently was the seventh annual MERIOL TREVOR lecture, given this year by Fr Shay Cullen of the Columban Missionaries, under the auspices of the Catholic Chaplain in Bath, William McLoughlin OSM. Miss Trevor was a prolific biographer and novelist, best known for her important two-volume biography of John Henry Newman, and a series of historical fantasies based in an imaginary country called Letzenstein currently being published by Bethlehem Books, available in the UK through Family Publications. Her novel The Rose Round helped to inspire our girl’s group of the same name, and Meriol was a supporter of Second Spring during her last years of life. As a lover of children, she would have been delighted with the recent Lecture in her honour.

Since 1969, Fr Cullen has been fighting sex slavery and child abuse in the Philippines, where he discovered multitudes of women and children enslaved in subhuman conditions, living on the streets or in prison, suffering the most appalling treatment. Through the PREDA foundation, he and his team have rescued thousands from drugs, brothels and prisons, offering them a safe refuge with therapy and training that enables them to re-enter society with dignity. What they have achieved is truly remarkable, and they deserve every support.

In his newspaper column, Father Shay writes: “Christian love means sharing our wealth, and it is a love that that will conquer greed, selfishness, injustice and enslavement. It is that love that asks no payment, seeks no reward, other than to serve and not to be served. It is to liberate the poor and the oppressed, free the enslaved and the imprisoned and it never compromises with evil or injustice, it will not tolerate abuse, never turn away from human suffering or any cover up, any child or woman abuse or exploitation. It is this love of the poor and the enslaved that carried and sustained the early human rights campaigners that saw slavery as a contradiction of everything that Christianity stood for and moved by unshakable moral convictions ran the first human rights campaign to abolish slavery. This is what we need all the more today to confront the modern slavery that is an affront to the human race.

“Slavery today is the same as it always was, its human beings being reduced to a commodity, deprived of freedom, working for nothing, exploited for profit, owned like an animal, forced to grovel. And worst of all it is the slavery of children in the organized sex industry, a billion dollar business.”

The text of Fr Cullen’s Lecture is available on the PREDA web-site. Next year’s Meriol Trevor Lecture will be given by Dr Michael Waldstein. Details will be announced nearer the time.