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Columban Fr Shay Cullen to receive prestigious Dutch award

By Sarah Mac Donald - 02 May, 2017

Irish missionary Fr Shay Cullen is set to receive another prestigious international award in recognition of his work against child sexual abuse and sex trafficking.

Next November, the Columban, who is based in the Philippines, will receive the 2017 Martin Buber Award.

The honour recognises his work, through the PREDA Foundation, helping children and women.

He will be presented with the award in Kerkrade during the annual International Festival of Dialogue – EURIADE.

According to Matt Moran, author of the recent book, The Legacy of Irish Missionaries Lives On, “Being chosen for this internationally focused award indicates the reputation and acclaim that Fr Shay Cullen’s human rights work is attracting internationally.”

PREDA is active in the rescue and care of abused children from jails, sexual predators and brothels. It gives victims a safe home with protection, education, empowerment and healing therapy and restores their self-esteem.

The foundation is also engaged in promoting human rights and justice for the marginalised, as well as selling fair trade produce to support mango-growing farmers.

Fr Cullen was an early board member of the International Federation of Alternative Trade (IFAT).

In 2006, he published a book Passion and Power, with an introduction by Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, and an endorsement by the Hollywood actor and human rights supporter Martin Sheen.

Numerous newspaper articles and television documentaries have reported the success of his work protecting children and campaigning for human rights.

He was an invited delegate to the conference drafting the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Helsinki, and has addressed the US House of Representatives Committee on International Relations on the issue of street children.

In 2015, he addressed MPs in the German Bundestag about the need for advocacy and support for people whose human rights are being violated in the Philippines, where a lucrative sex industry operates.

Fr Shay has been nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize by MPs in Germany and in Canada, and has received numerous recognition awards in several countries.

These include the Human Rights Award of the City of Weimar in Germany in 2000, the Human Rights Award of the City of Ferrara in Italy in 2001, the Prix Caritas in Switzerland in 2003, and the International Solidarity Prize by Matres Mundi in Spain in 2008.

He is in Germany this week to receive the A.K. Shalom Award from the Catholic University of Eichstätt–Ingolstadt.

Last year, Fr Cullen received the Hugh O’Flaherty International Humanitarian Award in Co. Kerry, and in 2008 he was awarded International Person of the Year, followed in 2009 with the Irish Music Awards’ Humanitarian Award.

Now in his 70s, Fr Shay remains dedicated to his missionary work.

Responding to the news of this latest award, he commented, “I accept awards not for myself but on behalf of all those who are working and risking their lives to defend the rights and dignity of oppressed people and to win freedom for those who are victims of human rights violations”.

In Matt Moran’s opinion, “Fr Shay represents the very best in the life-changing work of our missionaries throughout the world. Preventing the abuse of women and children at the hands of human traffickers and their own governments is his life’s work.”

He added that the priest’s mission for justice and peace is ecumenical in reach. “It is based on taking a stand for human rights and protecting the dignity of every person, in particular exploited women, children and youth. It is wonderful to see his efforts being recognised internationally.”

During a short upcoming holiday in Ireland, Fr Cullen will address TDs and Senators in Leinster House on 17 May about human trafficking and the increasing human rights violations in the Philippines, where over 8,000 people have been killed by police and agents of the state in a campaign against illegal drugs use.

On 22 May, he will be accorded a civic reception by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council.

Professor Martin Buber was a Jewish philosopher who advocated peace dialogue, mutual recognition of human rights and dignity, and a united Jewish and Arab Palestine.

He became well known internationally for his “dialogical principle” – a way of thinking that implies that ONE human being – ‘I’ – really perceives and accepts the Other as ‘YOU’.

Buber died in 1965, and the prestigious award in his memory was initiated in 2002 with German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher as the inaugural recipient.

Since then, recipients have included Queen Silvia of Sweden, President Klaus Johannis of Romania, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, Prince Irene of the Netherlands, and Karl-Heinz Böhm, founder of the Austrian Menschen für Menschen Foundation for Ethiopia.

Anyone who would like to support Fr Cullen’s work with PREDA can make a donation to Permanent TSB Account No 87930352, Sort Code 99 06 04.

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