Thursday, January 15, 2015

Crowds cheer in Philippines for Pope Francis while children are chained and abused

The youngsters, who can be kept in the centers for months, are exposed to abuse and exploitation by older children and adults

Angel, a 13 year old little girl clad only in a flimsy dress, was chained to a post in the detention center and left there crying
When the pope and other heads of state visit other countries what is the purpose of their visits? Do they just want publicity for themselves? Do they want to make speeches and hear crowds cheering for them?  Do they actually help the countries they visit? Not economically: For the pope’s visit to the Philippines that started today, the expenses are tremendous: Over 25,000 police and thousands of soldiers must provide security.   Helicopter gunships circle overhead. Streets must be cleaned – of dirt and of children who live under the road bridges where the Pope will travel.

Hundreds of boys and girls in Manila -- Street children as young as five are caged in detention centers with adult criminals who sexually abuse them according to an investigation by MailOnline, a British news service. Some have been starved and chained to pillars in the centers. A senior official admitted there had been an intensive round-up by police and government workers to make sure the children are not seen by Pope Francis.

The pope is going to visit with young people – but not the children locked up in cells. He can wash the feet of inmates as a photo op, but does he really care?  These practices of locking up children have gone on for a long time in Manila – there are 17 detention centers across the city, where an estimated 20,000 children a year are detained for no obvious reason other than begging for food. The same thing was done when Obama visited.  According to Rosalinda Orobia, head of Social Welfare Department in Manila, 'It happened before President Obama's visit to the Philippines in April last year. When we tried to have them released we were told they couldn't come out until after Obama had gone.”  So this is not a new practice, it hurts thousands of children and it is unlikely that heads of state have no knowledge of it.

Pope Francis said that a priority of his visit would be to send a message to the poor who face "social, spiritual and existential" injustices.  What good is a message?  Does it help the poor?  The Filipino President Aquino also wants to eradicate poverty: he would like to see fewer children born into poverty but the local Roman Catholic Church is fighting to overturn a 2012 reproductive health law that promotes artificial birth control. The church is not taking care of these children, the government allows such practices to continue – the children are invisible.  So these children will continue to live in the streets while popes and presidents parade by waving and smiling – bread and circuses but not for these children.