Contemplata aliis Tradere

A meagre contribution to the mission and work of the Order of Preachers: my reflections, thoughts, ideas and the occasional rant on matters mainly theological, philosophical and ecclesiastical, drawn primarily from my reading and experience of life and the world. Striving to be always Catholic, firmly Christian and essentially Dominican, flavoured with dashes of Von Balthasar.

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Location: Oxford, United Kingdom

A son of the English Province of the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans); born in Malaysia but have lived in the USA, Singapore, the UK & the Philippines for varying durations. A pilgrim and way-farer, a searcher for Truth on the journey of Life... "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!" - Hilaire Belloc

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Suffer the little children...

Tomorrow, June 12 is the World Day Against Child Labour. The International Labour Organization has called for this day to highlight the plight of some 246 million child-labourers worldwide. Above is a photograph of child labourers in the Navotas Fish Port in Metro Manila, the Philippines. They do look happy, but as a Filipino friend said to me, Filipino children would always smile if a camera is present, even if they'd been struck by a tsunami! The fact is that these children have to work long nights in the fish port, scavenging for a living and to help support their families. Their parents, themselves unemployed or even on substance-abuse, rely on their offspring to scrounge for odd bits of fish and seafood to sell in the hope of making ends meet. As such, the children have no real childhood (and poverty generally precludes this anyway) and no education. In other parts of the city, I have seen children who trawl through rubbish heaps for a living. None of this is formal labour, as they are no 'employed' or indentured by a corporation but is part of the tragic tapestry of poverty and economic oppression. I suspect the true figure of child labourers is higher than the ILO's projection.

The ILO highlights this year children in India, Africa and South America who work in the mining and quarrying industries - a highly dangerous trade. There are also children involved in the sex trade, agriculture and retailing.

We focus on child sex abuse as a major tragedy of our age, and indeed it is, but child labour is another form of child abuse which we need to focus on. The UN and other bodies, and we as consumers can put pressure on industries who hire children as cheap labour. Indeed, the UN has called for an end to child labour in mine and UNICEF highlights education as a key to ending this abuse.

However, what answer do we have for those children in the Philippines and others like them? They are not hired workers; they are trying to keep their families alive. They work for the survival of their parents and siblings. They work because they have to; they are victims of poverty. This is one of the reasons I commend the 'Make Poverty History' campaign to you - we must strive to end poverty in our lifetime.

I am concerned that the G8 summit is so exclusively focussed on Africa. While I applaud the need to help the people of Africa and the IMF debt relief granted today, I do wonder what aid is given to nations like the Philippines who may not yet be among the world's most needy but who are spiralling downwards.

Hunger, poverty, suffering knows no discrimination and it is sad when nations have to compete to be the poorest or most dire. For those child labourers, the starving baby, the desperate mothers with the dying children in the Philippines, they simply need our aid, our compassion and the world's attention. I fear that the focus on Africa at the expense of these in Asia will ultimately wipe the smile from those children's faces above...


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