Daily Archives: February 19, 2019

From America magazine

Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” (Mk 8, 25): So begins a pastoral letter released on Feb. 11 by the bishops’ conference of Haiti. The letter calls for calm and dialogue amid a growing popular revolt that has rocked the Caribbean nation.

“The hour is serious, poverty is increasing; the common good is threatened,” the bishops wrote. “The country is on the brink of collapse! This situation cannot be prolonged. Let us wake up to listen to God, master of wisdom and principle of all life. Let us listen to this people he loves so much.”

Haiti has been on lockdown over 10 days of sometimes violent street protests in February. Immiserated by a 50 percent devaluation of the local currency over the past six months and incensed by alleged corruption within the government of President Jovenel Moïse, Haitians have taken to the streets. Protesters have been demanding, “Kot Kòb Petrocaribe a?” (“Where is the Petrocaribe money?”)—a reference to more than $4 billion in Venezuelan development funds that have vanished under the current administration. Barricades manned by unemployed youth have paralyzed transportation in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. Protestors have burned cars, looted private property and clashed with police, leaving at least seven dead. Demonstrations have brought all private and government business to a halt in the capital of Port-au-Prince and in the provinces.

“The options are not clear because the political opposition also has no credibility. Meanwhile, the people are desperate…. For a people who live from day to day, it is impossible to hold on. We’re hungry and thirsty.”

“Anything could happen to anyone at any moment,” Jean Dennis Saint Félix, S.J., superior of the Jesuits in Haiti, told America, attesting to the acute insecurity that has accompanied the popular uprising. The watchword for Jesuits during the crisis has been prudence, he said, “but it is a prudence that is similar to fear…which we must break if we are to accompany the people in their fight for justice and better living conditions.”

Days earlier in a communique to fellow Jesuits, Father Saint Félix wrote: “I have great difficulty seeing how this government can continue because it is being criticized on all sides for its incompetence and its inability to react well and on time. We are calling for the pure and simple departure of the President of the Republic, Jovenel Moïse, as well as that of Prime Minister Jean-Henry Céant.

“Parliament is also discredited,” he wrote. “The options are not clear because the political opposition also has no credibility. Meanwhile, the people are desperate…. For a people who live from day to day, it is impossible to hold on. We’re hungry and thirsty.”

“Me personally, I’m suffering,” said Huswald Timothee, a resident of Port-au-Prince and the honorary consul of Romania in Haiti. “I have little-to-no access to water and fuel.” Mr. Timothee spent the duration of the unrest locked in his house, afraid to leave because of the breakdown in public order. He places the blame for the disturbances squarely on the president’s shoulders. “The only solution would be for him to resign.”

Popular anger over the Petrocaribe scandal first boiled over in October, as Haitians commemorated the assassination of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, one of the country’s founding fathers. “Every year there is a commemoration about Dessalines and the president goes to the tomb and places a wreath,” said Raymond Alcide Joseph, the former Haitian ambassador to the United States, “and this year the president was met with stones.”

Popular dissatisfaction with government corruption was stoked this time by the swift decline of Haiti’s currency, the gourde, which has gone from 64 to the U.S. dollar to 86 to the dollar in less than a year. Inflationary pressure on prices for basic foodstuffs, fuel and even water set the stage for the countrywide demonstrations that erupted on Feb. 7, the anniversary of the fall of Haiti’s odious Duvalier dictatorship.

“It’s no longer a political crisis,” said Ambassador Joseph. “It’s a crisis of the stomach.”

“It’s clear that the people of Haiti are suffering. What’s also clear is that the international community needs to remain committed to their plight. We must not abandon them.”

The paroxysm that overtook the country interfered with the work of church relief efforts and international humanitarian organizations. “With so much chaos unfolding, it’s simply not safe for us to operate,” said Chris Bessey, the country representative for Catholic Relief Services in Haiti, in a statement released on Feb. 15. “As things deteriorate, there is a fear that all of the progress that’s been made in the last decade could be lost,” he said, “and that the entrenched poverty will become even more pronounced.

“It’s clear that the people of Haiti are suffering,” Mr. Bessey added. “What’s also clear is that the international community needs to remain committed to their plight. We must not abandon them. Haiti needs our support now more than ever.”

Archbishop Thomas Gerard Wenski of Miami, one of the U.S. centers of the Haitian diaspora, told America that the crisis has interfered with post-earthquake rebuilding efforts. The archbishop is in charge of overseeing relief funds for post-earthquake church construction in the country. He said that “when there’s [protests] in the streets like this, the cost of construction goes up exponentially.”

As hospitals around the country struggled due to lack of medicine, supplies and fuel, an increasingly desperate population has turned to the church. “We as churchmen are receiving calls all day. People are knocking on our doors looking for help,” said Father Saint Félix. “But we can’t really say that we are doing anything major to help,” he adds. “You just can’t go outside; it’s too dangerous.”


Posted by on February 19, 2019 in Uncategorized


We stand with Haiti

When God asks Cain where is Abel, Cain says, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Other translations say, “Am I responsible for my brother?” or, “Am I supposed to care for him?” The answer to that question resounds throughout the scriptures: “Yes! Yes! Yes!” We have a God-given responsibility to care for the welfare of others—-especially others in need.

These words keep shouting in our souls as we think of our Haitian brothers and sisters and all that they are experiencing now. Since February 7, there has been civil unrest, demonstrations, road blocks, burning of tires, shootings, looting, deaths. The Haitian people just want their voices heard by their government leaders, especially wanting transparency regarding all the monies they had received to help their country physically, spiritually, socially. Businesses, schools, banks have all been closed; and everything is literally locked down.

We think about and pray for our kids and teens, and all those with whom we are blessed to share life, to work with, to serve and to empower. We were to return to Haiti on February 17, but we were advised by many of our people in Jacmel not to return until things calm down. We would need to land in Port au Prince and then have a 3-hour drive through the mountains to Jacmel. Then the American embassy gave us the news–a level 4 travel advisory, no travel to Haiti at this time of unrest.

Our hearts are aching as we think of those who have no access to food and water; those who cannot go to school because their teachers have not been paid; those markets which closed due to fear. God knows our prayers and listens, and so we pray today that hardened hearts will be opened to hear the cries of the poor so we can be the heart, hands, feet and bodies of Christ for others so we can again care for the welfare of our Haitian brothers and sisters. We stand with our people who desire to learn and grown and prosper. Please pray with us for a peaceful resolution to this conflict and for life to once again grow in Haiti.

1 Comment

Posted by on February 19, 2019 in Uncategorized