Church needs to be a 'voice for the voiceless'

Fr Peter O’Neill SSC (The eRecord/Amanda Murthy)

A Melbourne-born Columban priest has told a Perth audience that the Church has to show love to migrants and defend victims of modern slavery. Source: The eRecord.

“We, the Church, have to show the love of Christ towards migrants and defend those who are victims of human trafficking. We have to be the voice of the voiceless,” said Fr Peter O’Neill SSC, who was in Western Australia earlier this month to share some of his first-hand experiences of missionary work in Taiwan.

According to the 2017 International Labour Organisation and Walk Free Foundation report, there are 5.4 victims of modern slavery for every 1000 people in the world.

These startling facts were discussed by Fr O'Neill in his two-hour talk on human trafficking in Asia, organised by Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH) in partnership with the West Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office (WACMRO) and the Justice, Ecology and Development Office.

For 27 years, Fr O’Neill ran migrant shelters, provided pastoral support and advocated for human rights with the Columban Mission Society, where he worked tirelessly to champion the rights of undocumented migrant workers in Taiwan.

According to statistics revealed by Fr O’Neill, in 2017 there were 15.4 million victims of forced labour in Asia – 676,875 who were migrant workers from Taiwan.

“(The) majority of these victims in Taiwan came from the industries of carers or domestic workers (37.3 per cent), manufacturing (60.2 per cent), fishery (1.8 per cent) and construction (0.7 per cent),” he said.

“They were abused physically, mentally, sexually by their offenders, and forced to work an average of 16 hours daily.”

Now an ACRATH member, Fr O’Neill has been based at the Columban Mission Centre in Melbourne as the peace, ecology and justice coordinator since last July.

He hopes to use his expertise to further support the ACRATH on human trafficking and slavery, faith, migrant workers, asylum seekers and refugees, ecology, and climate change issues.


Columban Priest highlights hopes of combatting human trafficking in Australia (The eRecord)

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