By Linda Bordoni
It is not the first time that the men and women religious of Haiti have raised the alarm decrying the exceedingly critical political, economic and social situation in the island nation that continues to breed criminality and gang violence.
A statement released on Saturday, 17 September, expresses dismay and closeness in particular to “the priests and religious of the country who have been deeply affected in their physical and moral integrity and in their works, especially in the dioceses of Cayes, Gonaïves and Fort-Liberté, more precisely in Ouanaminthe, and to all the other persons and institutions that have been victims of acts of vandalism and looting in recent days.”
Calling for urgent action to save the suffering people of Haiti, the CHR reiterates its forceful condemnation of what it describes as “unprecedented and random acts of violence,” demanding that State authorities assume their responsibility and do their utmost to protect lives and property.
Socio-political tension continues to mount in Haiti, where on Friday widespread looting and violence were reported as thousands protested demanding the ouster of Prime Minister Ariel Henry.
The protesters have put the PM’s departure as a pre-condition to leaving the streets, where tires are burning, barricades have been erected and establishments ransacked in the capital as well as other cities such as St Marc and Gonaives.
Protests have also grown increasingly violent in different parts of the country, where public entities, private firms, and even offices of humanitarian and international organizations have been pillaged.
In the northwestern city of Gonaives, a UN office was destroyed and several educational institutions such as the Immaculate Conception, Holy Family, and the public university of Gonaives were vandalized. On Thursday, offices of Caritas Internationalis and the World Food Program had come under attack in the same city.
The CHR says it joins the cry of the Catholic Bishops of Haiti: “In solidarity with the atrocious suffering and secular misery of our people, to whom we belong and among whom we live and work in almost every field, we endorse their very legitimate demands.”
“We will continue to work tirelessly at their side against misery, ignorance, insecurity, absurd violence, and in favour of social justice and integral development.”
The religious affirm that “in spite of the violence that is sometimes unleashed against us and our institutions,” they will never tire “of committing themselves prophetically to the poorest, children, young people, the sick, refugees, migrants, returnees, the disenfranchised, and to all people in situations of great vulnerability, so that ‘His Kingdom may come’, in accordance with the mission that we have received from the Lord."
The statement goes on to appeal to the conscience and responsibility “of all actors and sectors, both national and international, to commit themselves with honesty and height to the search for a peaceful solution to the crisis.”
The CHR also asks Conferences of Religious and Episcopal Conferences throughout the world to show solidarity with the people of Haiti, “while sensitizing their various governments, most of which are involved in the Haitian crisis, so that the groans of our people can be heard beyond our borders.”
“Our people are crying out for the right to live in dignity. Their legitimate cry must be heard.”
Highlighting the seriousness of the situation the Religious describe as “a humanitarian catastrophe,” they plead for something to be done as soon as possible, noting that “the people are tired of counting their dead and can no longer afford to live in dignity.”
“As consecrated persons,” they continue, “we are more determined than ever to treasure the Hope that we carry within us and that we must proclaim in season and out of season,” they say invoking the Lord “to hear the cry of a whole people and to consider their sufferings.”
“May He be pleased to associate us all with His work of total liberation which is already underway and which is only waiting to be accomplished.”
The CHR concludes with an invitation to all to pray for “a happy outcome to the unprecedented crisis situation in the country, to devote one hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament each day in community, to pray and beg the Lord to come to the aid of his people in distress.”
By Linda Bordoni