Human trafficking

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By Arnold Van Vugt

The Living Spirit

Sunday, May 25, 2014


SUN.STAR of May 14 had on its front page the headline: ‘Temple leader faces human trafficking raps. On its back page there was a detailed story about that Temple leader, who calls himself a ‘pastor’ and a ‘shepherd,’ and physically abused around 16 children in his Temple on or before the fiesta celebration of the Qahal Qadesh Am Foundation Temple in Barangay Mahikay, Aurora, Zamboanga del Sur.

The name of that criminal is Elbiña. According to one story, 17 year-old girl was brought by her aunt, Esguerra, to Aurora, to attend the fiesta celebration on May 16. Her aunt left her there in that Temple and she was not allowed to leave that place anymore. She was brought by Elbiña to an underground room and the criminal had sex with her. All this is stated in an affidavit signed by that girl.

Reading this story I was shocked. How could all this happen in the town of Aurora? Is there no police in that area who can arrest that criminal and put him behind bars? The guy has signed counter-affidavits denying all these allegations. Here we are again caught up with a judicial system that requires proof beyond reasonable doubt before one can be put in jail.

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In the meantime the abuse of children is going on. Is there no civil society there, people with a common sense, who can say: the guy is a criminal, we will put him in jail and rescue those children who are still locked up in that Temple?

Trafficking in human beings is a phenomenon that is not talked about easily. It is a crime that happens in secret, and to report it demands great courage on the part of the victims, who can be men or boys, women or girls. The victims may be educated or uneducated but the one factor that is common to all is vulnerability.

Pope Francis says many things about this crime of human trafficking. In his encyclical Evangelii Gaudium he says: “I have always been distressed at the lot of those who are victims of various kinds of human trafficking. How I wish that all of us would hear God’s cry, ‘Where is your brother?’ (Genesis 4:9). Where is your brother or sister who is enslaved? Where is the brother and sister whom you are killing each day in clandestine warehouses, in rings of prostitution, in children used for begging, in exploiting undocumented labor. Let us not look the other way. There is greater complicity than we think. The issue involves everyone! This infamous network of crimes is now well-established in our cities, and many people have blood on their hands as a result of their comfortable and silent complicity.”

These are very strong words coming from the mouth of our Pope Francis. Are we still living in a Christian society, when we use our judicial system as an escape to look the other way and don’t do anything about this scandal?

At the end of this month, I have to go to Maranding for an alumni homecoming party of my wife. I will use that as an occasion to proceed to Aurora and have an ocular inspection of what is happening there.

As a Christian I can’t afford to look the other way. But let us not forget also what is happening also in our city of Cagayan de Oro, the city of Golden Friendship. Human trafficking is very rampant here also. We see prostitutes standing in the streets inviting people to come in for a job. We see hungry children roaming around in the streets; they are brought there by their mothers to beg for money. Often people look the other way. Are we still living then in a Christian society?

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[Email:nolvanvugt@gmail.com]

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on May 25, 2014.

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