Thursday, March 26, 2015

Human Trafficking and Slave Labor

"Trafficking in persons” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs..."

In the Kyeongyang magazine a lawyer, working for a human rights group, writes about human trafficking and slave labor in the 21st century. Part of the  Palermo Protocol, quoted above,  is the  United Nations'  internationally accepted definition of human trafficking.

The article begins with the story of Lia a girl from the Philippines who had a talent for singing. She heard about a girl from her village who was  going to Korea to work in the entertainment field, and she wanted to do the same. She was introduced to the entertainment agency and  came to Korea. She ended up in a night club exclusively used by foreigners, it was next to an American military base.

Lia had the job to fill the glasses of the customers with booze. Each month her quota was more than  300 glasses, if she did not achieve that goal she would receive a Bar Fine-- which meant that she  would have to sell herself for sex. She refused but she was told they would send her to a even more difficult club, so she chose the Bar Fine.

Lia told the owner of the club  she wanted to return to the Philippines; and was told she had a contract for 6 months, and if she left she would have to pay the  debt incurred by coming to Korea. She was deceived into taking a stimulant to help her in  her work that was supposed to be for health.  She complained to the agency that arranged her trip to Korea, and was sent to another more inferior establishment.

The article mentions the abuses that an Indonesian  citizen received on a Korean deep sea fishing vessel that was sailing from New Zealand. He received the work by giving his house ownership  documents as security. He was abused, overworked and given little food. Because of the documents  he left at the agency in Indonesia he was afraid he would not be making the 300 hundred dollars per month, that had been promised.  

He recounts many other  incidents in the   article that  show  slavery  and  human trafficking is not something of the past. We may look at the past and lament at the cruelty and inhumanity of the treatment, but many have no idea of what is happening in many parts of society even today with the handicapped, women and foreigners.

He concludes his article by wondering what will future generations think of us. Are we concerned with those who are treated as slaves and have lost their freedom as humans? Our answer to that question will determine how the future will look on this generation.          

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Copying of the Scriptures

In Bible & Life magazine there are five articles on copying the Bible by hand.The movement started among the Protestants but it has spread quickly among Catholics. When one thinks of what is involved in copying the whole Bible by hand we realize it is no easy task. Depending on the  time spent it could  take many years, or for those that are determined to do it within a one year span, a great deal of will power, a certain amount of physical endurance and a love for learning.

Korea's religious history includes Shamanism, Buddhism, Confucianism and within the last 300 years  Christianity--all have influenced the culture.  All helped to make Koreans respectful of religion,  even if they do not have any religion or belief. 

Statistics show Korea to be one of the more atheistic countries of the world, and listed high are those with no religious belief, but the terms used need a lot of explanation. Love of learning and their deep love of nature opens them to the unknown and world of blessings.

The articles show how the copying has brought blessings to the families and to the individual in many different ways. One  parish has required the copying of the Gospel of Mark before  baptism. There are parishes that have given prizes for the completion of the copying. There are many who have copied the Bible not only once but many times. 

Fathers and mothers often give copies of  the books,  to the children as a remembrance of what they think is important in life, and a gift filled with love and meaning, they hope the children will never forget. The copied books become a precious remembrance of their parents.

One article by a priest mentions  the emptiness that some of his parishioners feel after finishing the copying and they return to copying again. Here, the priest mentions that even such a noble task can become unhealthy an addiction, and wants the parishioners not to forget to use their energy also in helping their neighbors.   

Thomas a Kempis the author of the Imitation of Christ is known to have copied the whole Bible four times in his life and the books are still existent. Before the printing press books where precious and expensive but today when we have so many copies of the Bible in every possible language and so easily available, with little expense, it is truly a work of love to spend the time copying the words of Scripture. Would be surprised to hear of other countries with this kind of devotion, by so many,  expressed in this way.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dominus Vobiscum-- The Lord be With You

Where is God? Twenty years ago many would point to heaven but that is no longer the case. However, in the Our Father we  do  say, "Our father who is in heaven." Where is God? A priest who works in the pastoral office of a diocese, in his article in Bible & Life, wants us to reflect on this question.

He recalls  the famous words: 'the foot prints on the sand'. In a dream the writer went back in  life and remembered the intimate  relationship with God, but during the times of difficulty he noticed that there were only one set of footsteps in the sand.  He brought this to the attention of God: "Where were you when I was having trouble?" "I was carrying you during those times"  was the response.  

We may be moved by these words but the fact is we cry out when the pain is too much. The mother with the diagnosis of an incurable disease for a child or the death of a  child. The mother prays but who can blame her for being overcome with a heavy heart and deaf to all? The person who worked hard in his job  and was fired, the person who was selling his wares along the sidewalk and was told to move along, the student who worked hard in preparing for the exam and continually fails, the person who  was deceived by a friend who took off with all his savings; was God with them in their difficulties?

"My burden since your birth, whom I have carried from your infancy.  Even to your old age  I am the same, even when your hair is gray I will bear you; It is  I who have done this, I who will continue, and I who will carry you to safety" (Isiah 46:3-4).

I believe that you will save me and raise me on the last day. But is there nothing that you can do with the pain I am suffering now?  Carried at the breast, on the back, but what is the reason for the bitter-poison like pain that I have been made to swallow?

When he goes up to the altar to say Mass and looks over the congregation that has come to the Mass and sees those who have their eyes filled with tears and his eyes meet their eyes he greets them: "The Lord be with you."

In the Old Testament we have God being with his people. When the angel appeared to Mary she heard: "Rejoice,  O highly favored daughter! The Lord is with you" (Luke 1:28). Jesus in his last words in the Gospel of Matthew: "And know that  I am with you always, until the end of the world."

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "Our Father who art in  heaven is rightly understood to mean that God is in the hearts of the just, as in his holy temple. At the same time, it means that those who pray should desire the one they invoke  to dwell in them."

The article concludes with the priest saying that he looks into the eyes of the woman in pain,  who is appealing to God, and in the Mass before the last blessing he raises his voice and  speaks out: "The Lord be with you!"

Monday, March 23, 2015

Preparing for Marriage

When children grow up in a home where parents love and respect each other the memory of the relationship is their reference point, and the blueprint for their marriage. On the other hand, when you have divorce, separation or children living with a parent who has remarried they have many different models of married life. 

A priest who is working in pastoral work for families writes about the topic in a diocesan bulletin. Children who saw love and joy in the lives of their parents,  becomes the blueprint for their own marriage; when they did not find this in their own family they will look for another blueprint: they will vow to do things differently. Depending on the maturity of the children  they will internalize their experience as an example to follow, or not.

Since husband and wife have different experiences of family, this can result in family squabbles.  Mother may have not liked the way the father was authoritarian, and the father may have disliked the mother's sentimentality and fragility. They both may want to work against what they did not like in their own upbringing, but this is not always easy to do.

Not always surprising is when the parent ends up imitating the very things that they didn't like in their own home life. The conditions of the work place can influence the workings in the family and this often  unconsciously.

Family experience will be a great help to the young couple; they will also look for an ideal of family life  from the popular culture. Those with a strong spiritual life will look for answers from their faith life and the family of Nazareth.

Young people have been exposed to family life from an early age in the popular culture as seen on TV, movies, popular songs etc.. They did not understand all they saw and heard but has been absorbed.  Often what they have received is not going to be helpful, and forms their convictions that will influence their married life.

Common ideas about marriage the young have heard are many: a spouse should be this kind of person--  satisfaction in marriage should be of this degree-- married life is something to be endured-- married life is heaven, is hell-- these and many other expressions have been heard and remain with the young.

Married life brings changes and the environment  changes. This is part of the married journey. Much of the common expressions are false, and this has to be understood. He concludes the article by asking: are not the common notions that have been accepted about marriage going to prepare for the hurts that are experienced? 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Adultery and the Marriage Bond

Recently, the law criminalizing adultery was found “unconstitutional” by the Constitutional Court of Korea. The results from the decision have been noisy. The Catholic Times has an article on the issue by a priest director of a research center on family. There is a fear, on the part of many, that the sexual act will be seen outside the context of marriage to the detriment of marriage.

The Constitutional Court  said the criminalization of adultery infringes on the right of the sexual determination and privacy of the individual, and freedom in one's personal life; the duty of maintaining the family bond rests with the individuals in the marriage and not the government.

Times have changed and adultery is no longer a violation of the constitution, however, society is  still swayed by Confucianism, and religion continues to influence society. In Catholicism marriage is the joining of husband and wife by God. Marriage opens a couple to be in service to life, realize the blessings of God in history, and share the image of God with others. In  the marriage act the couple are cooperators with God in passing on life. 

Sex is not merely a biological act but the way a husband and wife  give themselves completely to each other, and relate to each other in one of the  deepest manners. With sex the couple gives themselves to each other until death. "I promise to take you, N, to be my husband, I promise to be true to you  in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, I will love you and honor you all the days of my life." Catholics believe in the indissolubility of marriage and therefore for a Catholic divorce is not possible. 

For the crime of adultery to be established it was necessary to assume divorce proceedings, had already begun. This was the practice in society. The partner who was suing for divorce, was saying they  no longer were able to live with the person in the marriage bond. The Constitutional Court saw the question as one of legality and excessive punishment. There was no need for the nation to enter and punish adultery as a crime; it was a moral issue, where  censure was in order and not a case for criminal law to solve. 

No longer was adultery to be punished by law but was a  question of morals and ethics and the concern of religious convictions and moral values. Seeing adultery as a crime was not an area the church had much to say. Adultery was seen in society as the beginning of divorce proceedings. Catholicism had higher values to follow, so the issue is not meaningful for the church.   

We are  sexual beings but not limited to this, we need to be directed to the spiritual. The church goes even beyond the act of adultery to the 9th commandment where even impure thoughts are forbidden. With the abolition of adultery as a crime,   couples have to be  concerned with the weakening of the marriage bond in society where pleasure of sex is the only issue, and  the trend towards selfishness becomes paramount, consequently, the  family needs to straightened the precious standards of family life. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Healing Knows No Boundaries

In the Maryknoll Magazine for January/February Fr. Gerard Hammond our local superior had an article describing his volunteer work with the Eugene Bell Foundation. This U.S. based not-for-profit organization provides medical humanitarian assistance to rural North Korea, where at least 100,000 people are living with tuberculosis. Below are some of the words taken from the article.

"Visiting North Korea to bring medical supplies to people with tuberculosis is like being in one of the  passages in the Bible where the sick crowded around  Jesus begging to be cured.

We do our best to enroll as many patients as possible, giving priority to those who are sickest. But, unfortunately, due to a chronic shortage of medication, we have to turn many away. Not everyone who receives treatment recovers, despite our best efforts.

Last year's visit of Pope Francis to South Korea was a great blessing for all of us, especially the people who have suffered so much after the  Second World War  divided Korea into two countries in 1945. The pope celebrated a  Mass for peace and reconciliation at Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul, South Korea. Although North Korea rejected the pope's invitation to allow North Korean Catholics to attend the Mass, I hope his visit will be the spark for the beginning of a  move toward peace on the peninsula and for the reconciliation of the peoples of North and South Korea.

The Catholic Church, like other religious groups, is allowed to operate in North Korea only under extremely tight restriction. It must work within the confines of the state-controlled North Korea Catholic Association (KCA) there are 3,000 Catholics in the North, but outside experts put the figure at around 800. The best Pope Francis could do was to invite to the Mass for peace and reconciliation five representatives of families whose loved ones were kidnapped by the North and 30 elderly Catholics who crossed into the South during the 1950-1953 Korean War.

On Aug. 14, the pontiff met each one of the 14 Maryknollers serving in South Korea. When he greeted me, he simply said, 'North Korea-tuberculosis' and squeezed my arm.

On every trip we provide each patient a six-month supply of multi-drug-resistant medication. On  average, a patient will receive four medication boxes over a two year period. These boxes give patients one last chance at recovering from this deadly disease and help prevent the disease from spreading to their families.

Part of the North Korea trips includes 'graduation ceremonies' for patients who have completed treatment. Usually members of the delegation place necklaces of cranes ( a symbol of long life) around the necks of these patients. I am often asked to say a few words of congratulations and encouragement. I get a big smile when I promise to pray for them. I hope you too will remember our  patients in your prayers."

Friday, March 20, 2015

Playing and Success in Life

Structures in society influence the way we think and act, some for the good and some not for the good.  A university dean writing in the Catholic Times tells us that children who know how to play are the ones who are successful, and goes on to explain his thesis.

In Asia, he says, we like to see landscapes with mountains, and rivers. It makes us feel at peace. However,in much of our society we are separated from nature, and those who suffer the most from this isolation are the children. There are many maladies and mental difficulties  that can be traced to this isolation.

Sports are good, but other games and being close to nature, animals and plants are a great help in  relating with others, and developing the imagination, and creativity. A Japanese scholar is quoted as saying that the children who know how to play do well in their studies.

All parents want their children to be leaders in society. Preparation for this comes in friendliness with others, having  a moral sense, able to understand another's situation, and able to sustain a loss.  We want a  person who is genuine, and has developed their humanity. Capability in society demands more of their emotional make up than IQ. Nature stimulates the child's senses, they come in contact with different sounds and smells, they feel the  bright rays of the sun and fresh air, all help to heal, console, jolt the spirit of inquiry, adventure and creativity.

We know that there is not a direct connection of success in life and honors in study. Without the ability to related with others one will not be successful in life. According to the dean, the International Civic and Citizen Education Study placed Korean students very low in cultural  interaction skill, and the ability to live harmoniously with others. The results have been shocking to many in society. 

Our students no longer have to go to school on Saturdays and have the weekend to play  and to develop their emotional and human qualities.  Our students, says the dean, have the longest hours of study compared to other countries and when they go to Sunday School and are faced with more of the cramming methods of education it is easy to see why they don't want to go.

He recommends another way of conducting the Sunday School programs so that the students will be looking forward to meeting their friends and to  enjoy the time they are together. He feels that if that is accomplished, even if they fall away later, they will remember the happy days of their Sunday School years which will help them to return. 

Here we have a ideal situation but there is the need to impart some knowledge to the students, and without that  we only entertain which is not what a Sunday School program should be.Those who are responsible for the programs of the students in parishes know the difficulties and the need to  make the programs more attractive and better attended, a work in progress.