Shalom Prize 2017 goes to Father Shay Cullen and the Peoples’ Recovery, Empowerment and Development Association – PREDA project in the Philippines
Saturday, May 6, 2017. Irish priest Father Shay Cullen, based in the Philippines, has been awarded the Shalom Prize 2017 in Eichstätt, north of Munich.
Since 1969, Cullen and the PREDA project have fought tirelessly for human rights and against the sexual abuse of children and women in the Philippines. Hundreds of children have been freed thanks to the PREDA’s intervention. Police often jail children or minors, who flee home after suffering physical and sexual abuse at the hand of their relatives. PREDA offers traumatised and sexually abused women and girls psychological support an opportunity to continue their education and forge new contacts with their families.
PREDA also tackles poverty – the main source of the inhuman conditions. Families earn an income from organically grown mangoes, which are sold in fair trade shops across Germany, Austria and Britain. The sales of the simple, dried fruit give the poor a chance at a life in dignity.
Cullen has received repeated death threats for his efforts towards human rights. Sex offenders, who have gone on trial following his intervention, try to defame the priest and his fellow advocates. Member of parliaments in Canada, Germany and Britain have nominated the priest twice for the Nobel Peace Prize. Cullen is also a columnist for the Manila Times and the author of several blogs. In 1998, Germany’s ARD TV shot an episode of the Tatort crime series in the Philippines. By highlighting the victims’ plights, Cullen played a major advisory role in getting production off the episode called “Manila” off the ground. Shortly after the screening in the late 1990s, the Tatort association, Strasse den Welt (Streets of the World) was formed. In her laudation in honour of Father Cullen, a representative of the Tatort association, Ulrike Thönniges, highlighted his courage, energy and the transparency of PREDA’s excellent work.
Wolfgang Huber, President of the missio in Munich, a Catholic relief organisation that has supported PREDA for many years, stressed how important it is for the church to stand alongside the weakest in society – a task that it continues to perform.
Christoph Kühn, head of the World Church unit spoke on behalf on the diocese of Eichstätt. Barbars Loos, Chair of the Board of University Overseers, welcomed guests on behalf of Prof. Gabriele Gien, President of Eichstätt University. The sponsor of the award, Andreas Steppenbeger, Mayor of Eichstätt, stressed the importance of the human rights prize and the courage of Shay Cullen.
During his acceptance speech, Cullen urged people to remain alert and not to turn a blind eye to the abuse. Since 2016, over 8,000 people have been killed in the Philippines at the hands of death squads or polices deployed by President Rodrigo Duterte as part of his „Battle against Drugs“. None of the victims have gone on trial.
The Shalom Prize is one of Germany’s highest awards for human rights and in recent years has come with a cash prize of EUR 20,000. The prize money is composed solely of donations. Apart from the World Church in the diocese of Eichstätt, the Oswald Foundation and the Rotary Club Eichstätt, all donations come from private persons. Members of the task force Shalom are students and/or citizens of Eichstätt who all work on a voluntary basis. The award has been presented annually since 1981.