Dublin priest nominated for Nobel Prize three times
Irish Columban missionary Fr Shay Cullen is to receive one of Europe’s most prestigious human rights commendations, the Netherlands’ Martin Buber Award.
The Dubliner, who has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize three times, is recognised for his work on human rights undertaken through the PREDA Foundation which he established in the Philippines in 1974.
He will be presented with the award in Kerkrade next November during the annual International Festival of Dialogue – EURIADE. PREDA is active in the rescue and caring of abused children from jails, abusers and brothels and giving victims of abuse a safe home with protection, education, values formation, affirmation, empowerment and healing therapy and restoring their self-esteem.
It is engaged in defending human rights and promoting justice for the marginalised, as well as running Fair Trade to support mango-growing farmers.
As well as his PREDA work he travels the world to give talks with international development agencies, and his 2006 book Passion and Power had an introduction by Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, and an endorsement by Hollywood actor Martin Sheen.
He was an invited delegate to the conference drafting the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Helsinki, and has addressed the US House of Representatives Committee on International Relations on the issue of street children. In 2015, he addressed MPs in the Bundestag about the need for advocacy and support for people whose human rights are being violated in the Philippines where a lucrative sex industry operates.
Now in his 70s, Fr. Shay remains deeply dedicated to his missionary work.
Humbled by his many recognition awards, he says: “I accept awards not for myself but on behalf of all those who are working and risking their lives to defend the rights and dignity of oppressed people and to win freedom for those who are victims of human rights violations”.
Professor Martin Buber was a Jewish philosopher who advocated peace dialogue, mutual recognition of human rights and dignity, and a united Jewish and Arab Palestine. Buber died in 1965, and the prestigious award in his memory was initiated in 2002 with German Foreign Minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher as the inaugural recipient.
Since then, recipients have included Queen Silvia of Sweden, President Klaus Johannis of Romania, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, Prince Irene of the Netherlands, and Karl-heinz Böhm, founder of the Austrian Menschen für Menschen Foundation for Ethiopia. Last week Fr Shay was presented with the A.K. Shalom Award in Germany. When he accepted the award he said that the situation he was dealing with in the Philippines was still ‘grave’.
“The truth is that state sanctioned executions of people suspected of being drug users or dealers has reached a high of about 8000 murdered since 30 June 2016. The killing goes on as I speak to you tonight,” he said. “We have to take a stand against these violations and stand for the value of life and due process of law and the principle that all are innocent until proven guilty. Otherwise not only are more suspects vulnerable but we are all vulnerable if death squads are allowed to have their murderous way. In the past, inaction and fear allowed tyrants to rule nations by the gun and violence.
“Propaganda in the Philippines has persuaded many Filipinos both in the Philippines and abroad that this killing of suspects is the way to eliminate crime. This is a lack of awareness of and the lack of a commitment to defend human rights. The suspects, are mostly poor, street people and have not been formally accused or found guilty of any crime at the time they are murdered. The death squads and police are supported and encouraged by the administration to kill the “suspects”.
Anyone can be branded as a “suspect” and killed.
“It is the end of a civilized country if the rule of law and due process are ignored and the judicial system, faulty as it is, bypassed. Education on the constitutional rights to life, freedom, and respect is more vital than ever to save the dignity of the people.
“Silence is consent in the face of human rights abuse. We have to take a stand for human dignity and speak out for life and against death. This award is a message to the Philippines and the world that life is precious, the rights of the person must be upheld and protected, and the victims must be helped.
“We are called to be champions for them, to be a voice for them, and give them a chance for a new life whether they are in the Philippines, in Syria, or in Germany. Our values are universal and are for all people. In this world we live but a short time, we are all one, and we have the strength and the spirit to act as one in making this a better world today and for the next generation. Thank you of honoring them with this award”.