I’ve read and heard a lot of horrible stories about human trafficking. Every time I think I’ve heard the worst, I find another one that horrifies me. This one certainly falls into that category:
According to a news outlet in the Philippines, girls in the countryside were lured away from their home with the promise of studying in Manila, and almost abducted into a life of human trafficking—by women dressed as Catholic nuns.
In a very twisted way, this makes sense. In the heavily-Catholic Philippines, there would hardly be a more trusted figure to young children than a Catholic nun.
Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines in 2013, has created conditions that favor human trafficking. There are more children without close families, more poverty, more desperation, less schools. All of this means that children are often left unattended, are sent out to look for work themselves, or worse, sold to traffickers. A 14 year old girl, “Lyn,” tells of her experience:
She said a group called “Babalam Kevalam” visited her area on a “relief operation” four months after the devastating typhoon.
“One of the members, who identified herself as a nun, approached us while we were planting in our community garden,” she said. “She asked the five of us who at that time we are 12-13 years old if we wanted to study in Manila. She offered us scholarships. All of us agreed and immediately “Babalam Kevalam” went to our parents and asked their permission to bring us to Manila.”
Lyn’s family, which was struggling to scratch out a living, agreed to let her go.
On the bus to Manila, a man, wary of the “nuns,” began asking questions of the children. Upon arrival in Manila, he brought the police to the bus. The women were not able to produce paperwork that gave them permission to transport the children, so the children were taken into protective custody until they could be returned home.
The 2014 typhoon is estimated to have displaced 14 million people. Since many religious organizations, including Catholic sisters, have been involved in helping the Filipino people, it is hard to imagine having to tell a child, “Beware of the nuns.”