One year laterMarch 1, 2005
Early in 2004, the world watched on TV the events unfolding, which led to the ouster of Jean Bertrand Aristide, the first democratic elected president of Haiti. One year later, except for a mention here or there, the screens have turned away from this struggling country. The numerous problems faced by the people have increased their misery since the controversial ouster, and yet they maintain their will to live and to survive.
The year has been filled with political harassment, major human rights violations, and unnecessary loss of lives. Life may have been difficult under Aristide and previous leaders, but there has been no significant improvement under the current interim government and the UN Peacekeeping force. The “free for all” style of living is an open invitation to anyone who has a grudge or a hidden agenda to join in with impunity. Today, the citizens of this country are living in a state of uncertainty. Disarmament is an ideal and far from being a reality. Pro-Aristide gangs control the densely populated areas of Port-au-Prince and former military control the provincial towns. In between are the criminals who rob, kill, and harass, often recruiting small children who are just as ruthless. Churches and church leaders have not been spared. There is persecution everywhere. Churches have been vandalized, robbed and burned. Pastors have been attacked, beaten and even killed. People have had to flee their neighborhoods, often at a moment’s notice.
Until late September 2004, the mass population listened attentively and patiently to the promises of a better life to be characterized by employment, health care, food security, a thriving economy with new investors, improved infrastructures and all the “bread and butter” essentials they desperately desired.
There was an ominous calm, or sense of “déjà vu,” mid-year when the world announced 1.2 billion US dollars in assistance to Haiti in order to turn its economy around. It came as no surprise that the money had not even started trickling in by the end of the year. Once again, a feeling of betrayal enveloped the mass majority while the elitist government talked of its ability to effectuate change and its collaboration with the international community.
Not caring for rhetoric, hungry people took to the streets once again plunging Haiti into yet another dangerous and violent stage of its history. Some are demanding the release of political prisoners, some for the return of the dreaded military, others for restitution of money lost in failed cooperatives. Aristide supporters cry not only for a return to the democratic process and an end to arbitrary harassment and arrest, but the physical return of Aristide from exile in South Africa. The former military demanded 10 years of back pay and pension, and recently received the first check. No one knows where this latest crisis will take us or when it will end.
We affirm a recent statement made by Felix Ortiz-Cotto, the Latin American executive: “Haiti is a dangerous place, not because the people are evil but because Haiti has been exploited, divided, isolated and invaded.” Haiti is not a basket case as has been suggested by the international media. Haiti is a country of strong Christians who covet justice, peace and life – a life of dignity filled with God’s love. Why do we remain hopeful? We have come to understand that the tenacious and joyful spirit of the Haitians can be bent, but not broken. Please continue to lift the people of Haiti in prayer.
Sandra and Daniel Gourdet Daniel and Sandra Gourdet are missionaries with the National Spiritual Council of Churches in Haiti (CONASPEH). Daniel serves as a consultant for development programs. Sandra serves as a consultant for educational programs.
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