Irish children's rights campaigner, Fr Shay Cullen of the Columban Missionary Society, is battling to clear his name after the Philippines Justice Department recently ordered the filing of a rape charge against him. Fr Shay is accused of abusing a seven-year-old girl in January 1998 while she was in the care of the Preda Children's Centre in Olongapo City, founded by Fr Cullen in 1974. The case has been dismissed by the Justice Department on two previous occasions. A Nobel Peace Prize Nominee for 2001 and recipient of the German human rights award from the city of Weimar for 2000, Fr Cullen says that he is being framed by a paedophile support group in Olongapo as "a backlash against our campaign to bring child sex abusers to justice". The group has filed more than 50 legal harassment cases over the past two years against Fr Cullen and his co-workers. Thirty-two have been dismissed by the Justice Department and the rest are undergoing due process. Fr Cullen says that he has total trust in the integrity of Justice Secretary Artemio Tuquero to see justice done swiftly and honestly. International letters of support which he has received include those from the Columban Faith and Justice Team, the Jubilee Campaign in Britain, Missio in Germany, Oxfam in Belgium, Action Against Child Labour in Japan, and ECPAT International (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and the Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes). Cardinal Jaime Sin, Archbishop of Manila, has publicly supported Fr Cullen. The rape charge concerns a child brought to the Preda Children's Home by the Philippine authorities after she complained to her teachers and the police that her half-brother and a house boy were sexually abusing her. After consistently blaming the two boys in videotaped interviews, the girl, when returned to her father, produced a hand-written note accusing Fr Cullen of abuse. The note was written in an establishment on Baloy Beach in Olongapo run by German Harry Joost, a long-standing critic of Father Cullen who has been involved in the setting up of internet web pages attacking the work of the Preda Foundation. Fr Cullen describes Baloy Beach as "a haven for paedophiles and sex tourists" and says that the note was "coerced and fabricated" under the influence of Harry Joost and the girl's father. See Irish priest challenges sexual exploitation, drug abuse - and world banking, ICN, 4 October 1999. The Preda Foundation website is www.preda.org
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