Photo: Fr. Shay Cullen with Dr Bärbel Kofler
Irish missionary, Fr. Shay Cullen SSC, and his team of human rights advocates at the Preda Foundation in the Philippines have been nominated for the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. The German Bundestag Committee on Economic Cooperation and Development, led by the German Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights and Policy and Humanitarian Aid, Dr Bärbel Kofler, made the nomination.
This prestigious nomination by such a distinguished parliamentary group highlights the status of the work of the Preda Foundation and hundreds of Filipino human rights advocates working in seriously deteriorating conditions of human rights violations. It is a dangerous and risky work by hundreds of courageous Filipinos defending helpless victims.
The nomination letter to the Nobel Peace Prize Awarding Committee in Oslo, Norway states: “As a member of the German Bundestag, I hereby nominate Fr. Shay Cullen for the Nobel Peace Prize. The Bundestag Committee on Economic Cooperation and Development supports this proposal. The prestigious committee and office of the Human Rights Commissioner have thoroughly examined and verified the recorded history and life experience of the nominee Fr. Shay Cullen, an Irish member of the Society of St. Columban, who has worked for human rights and children and women’s right in the Philippines since 1969. They have examined all his work in the Preda Foundation and in this letter endorsed him as a worthy candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.
“Since 1969, Fr. Cullen has been committed to the protection and promotion of children’s rights in the Philippines. In particular, he has been striving at many levels to combat the brutal violations of children’s rights that occur when children are subjected to sexual abuse.
“In 1974, Fr Cullen founded the People’s Recovery, Empowerment and Development Assistance Foundation (PREDA), which is dedicated to helping victims of abuse and pursues the aim of helping to win freedom and a new life for children held in prisons and brothels, starving children, abandoned children and those trapped by poverty. PREDA helps abused women, supports the indigenous population, protects the environment, and tries to alleviate poverty through micro-loan schemes and fair trade.
“In the performance of my duties as a Member of the Bundestag I have come to know Fr. Cullen personally and have been highly impressed by his work and untiring commitment. In my role as Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, I have also become aware of the outstanding impact of his life’s work on the promotion of respect for human rights, particularly children’s and women’s rights.
“He lives with constant death threats from the Mafia and international child-trafficking rings. He nevertheless continues his unrelenting efforts, including the exertion of political pressure, to defend the elementary rights of children, gives them a voice and speaks out fearlessly and publicly in international forums against sexual torture of children….”
The nomination letter explains how Fr. Cullen and his team of human rights advocates received death threats and political harassment, and retaliation by the international sex mafia that tried and failed to smear his good name and the important work of the Preda Foundation. The team of advocates, despite harassment, continued defending the victims of abuse and human rights violations and the work building peace and harmony through Fair Trade. The nomination letter outlines the unique healing centers for traumatized children and the work of bringing peace to the thousands of victims of abuse.
Dr. Kofler concluded: “Because of Fr. Shay Cullen’s commitment to the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, regardless of the risk to his own life, I consider him a worthy candidate for the award of the Nobel Peace Prize”.
The letter adds the list of Awards that have been given to Father Cullen and his Preda team of human rights advocates:
2000 – Human Rights Award of the town of Weimar
2000 – Betinho Communications Prize of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
2001 – Premio Città di Ferrara
2003 – Prix Caritas Switzerland
2008 – International Person of the Year (Ireland)
2008 - The International Solidarity Prize (Spain), awarded by the Academy of Medical Practice in Barcelona.
2009 – Irish Music Awards, Humanitarian Award
2016 – The Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty International Humanitarian Award 2016
2017 – Shalom Prize of the Catholic University of Eichstätt
2017 – Awarded the Martin Buber Prize 2017
2017 – Nominated for the 4th time for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Issued by Matt Moran. Tel 021-4885253 / 086-3909790.
Dated: 6 October 2017
L to R: Francis Bermido, Executive Director of Preda Foundation, Dr. Barbel Kofler, German Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, and Fr. Shay Cullen SSC.
Update by Fr. Shay Cullen on the situation in the Philippines
President Rodrigo Duterte told his police on16 August 2017 to “shoot those who are part of (drug activity). If they are (members of human rights organizations) and are obstructing justice shoot them” he ordered. He also said that human rights organizations could possibly face criminal investigation for criticizing his anti-drug campaign. “One of these days, you human rights groups, I will also investigate you, that’s the truth, for conspiracy,” he told the media. In December 2016 he also threatened to kill human rights defenders.
Despite these dire warnings, the advocates continued standing up, marching, writing and speaking out for the rule of law and human dignity. The nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, while given to one, is for all. It is a signal of solidarity and support for all the human rights advocates.
Anton is a teenager that recently sought refuge and protection in the Preda home for boys. He feared that he was tagged as a drug dependent and frightened that he would be killed by a vigilante group or by the police. Preda has sheltered and protected hundreds of youth from violations of their rights by rescuing them from horrid dangerous jail cells and from the streets and dangerous situations. More young people are being targeted by the death squads and as many as 54 children have been killed already. The total estimated number dead is at 12,700 since May 2016.
The blatant killing of 17-year-old Kian de los Santos in August this year ignited a outpouring of anger and rage among Filipinos and now 60 percent of the people polled say that they believe only the poor are being killed. Another 14-year old youth and his companion, 19 years old were found dead, their faces wrapped in plastic tape, the marks of extrajudicial killing.
Seventy percent of the people interviewed in a SWS poll said that they fear the death squads might target their relatives or neighbours. Most of the accused are the very poor and killed for abusing a few grams of “shabu,” an illegal drug. Others are killed for a bounty payment. This has thrown the spotlight on the recent Senate investigations on the smuggling into the Philippines of large quantities of crystal meth drugs, commonly known as “shabu” by a Davao group to which the son of the president has been linked. The president said that he would resign if the allegations were proven and he would kill his son if he was proven to be using illegal drugs.
The wave of street protests by thousands of Filipinos against the killings has indicated that the silent majority of Filipinos is finding a voice and is against the killings and the human rights violations. The human rights advocates’ hard work is showing results in greater public awareness of the moral values and rule of law values at stake. Some of the supportive media is also speaking out against the human rights violations.
The church is finding its voice too through a few outspoken leaders like Archbishop Socrates Villegas and Bishop Pablo David of Caloocan where many youth have been killed. The archbishop is offering protection to police who would turn to confess in public their involvement in the killings and the violations of human rights by the extrajudicial killings of innocent people.
But despite this the President is adamant in his campaign. He is quoted to have said recently: “I tell you, I will triple it. ‘Pag hindi nasunod ang gusto ko, to get rid of my country (of the drug problem), you can expect 20,000 or 30,000 more (deaths),” Duterte said in Davao City after his return from an official visit to Japan according to media reports. During his campaign for the presidency, he said 100,000 people would die when he would launch his war on crime. Then in response, a police operation that identifies suspects was intensified and as many as 32 suspects were killed in a single night in Bulacan province and in Metro Manila, within the same 48 hours, another 26 people were killed. President Duterte said it was a good operation. “Thirty-two were killed in a massive raid in Bulacan. That is good. If we could kill 32 every day, then maybe we could reduce what ails this country,” he told the media in an interview.
These are dark and difficult days for those defending the rights of the people targeted by the death squads that seem to operate with official protection. Some are police in civilian clothes, according to some researchers. It is in this atmosphere that the German Commissioner for Human Rights, Dr. Bärbel Kofler, and the German Bundestag Committee on Economic Cooperation and Development signed the letter of nomination. It is important to have international support and encouragement to continue the struggle and defence of the poor and the vulnerable.
Photo: Fr. Shay Cullen with Dr Bärbel Kofler