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Episcopal Conference of Haiti
56, Rue Piquant, Port-au-Prince – Haiti, Tel : 222-4855 Fax : 222-5194
A message from the Episcopal Conference of Haiti (CEH) to faithful Haitian Catholics, to all the sons and daughters of our country and to all people of good will.
1. We, the members of the Episcopal Conference of Haiti, greet you all. May the peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. (Eph. 1,2)
2. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we met in a special Plenary Assembly, at the “Foyer de la Miséricorde de Bergeaud” near the city of Cayes. This Plenary Assembly, like the others, began in an atmosphere of intense prayer and constant reflection. It is special because we combined it with our retreat and because it lasted twice as long as usual.
3. However, this place devoted to prayer and meditation did not cut us off from you, or from the reality of the framework of your daily lives. On the contrary, prayer and reflection brought us closer to you, intensified our pastoral concern, refined our civil sensibilities and liberated our potential for solidarity with you.
4. With the eyes of our hearts, souls and spirits, we tried to better understand how Haitian men and women have always lived and are living today. Haitians are a people in a crisis of confidence, who have lost their confidence in themselves and in others. The reason for this being that Haitians have always been the victims of lying, exploitation and corruption. This situation has contributed to the formation in Haitian men and women of a unique mentality geared towards immediate profit, marked by subterfuge, by withdrawal into oneself, by individualism, by aggressiveness in words and gestures, and, paradoxically, by fear.
5. When taking a closer look, we see that we are a product of our society, formed in a country too long mismanaged and poorly administered, often by retrograde dictators. We are suffering the consequences today, of which these are a few:
a. The majority of this country's population, some four million people, lives below the poverty threshold—not even one US dollar per day. Indications of human development are in clear regression, and the rate of demographic growth is much higher than that of the production of goods. In addition, the country is not operating on a strict budget and does not have enough strong institutions to ensure its progress.
b. The socio-economic down turn recorded in our county throughout its history.
c. Supremacy, not by right but by force, and personal and petty interests.
d. Political instability, intolerance, acerbic antagonism between social classes and between political parties that invited the interference of foreign forces, putting the people in the care of the military occupation directly or by interventions for arbitration and for maintaining the peace.
e. Ecological disaster that causes catastrophes, such as that which hit Mapou and Fonds-Verretes in May this year, or that which just hit Gonaives and the North-West, and which make the whole country feel vulnerable.
6. The result of all this is under-development, unemployment, rural exodus, the flight of intellectuals and the phenomenon of the boat people, the exploitation of Haitian immigrant workers that worsens every day as a result of the trade of our children from 5 to 15 years old in the neighboring Republic, the two devastating floods of drug trafficking and the spread of AIDS, the ever increasing violence and insecurity, to the point of terrorism.
7. Could we not have avoided arriving at this point? What must be done? What can we do faced with all this?
Implication of the Church
8. In this context of institutional and political crisis, moral crisis, societal crisis, the Church, walking the path with the people, will not remain indifferent to her role. She makes her own their joys and aspirations, their sadness and anguish. (cf. Gaudium et Spes 1) Obedient to the demands of the Gospel, she brings herself close to the people, to the path of the people, particularly the poor, the rejected, following the example of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel. (Luke 10, 29-37)
9. This is why, attentive to her pastoral mission in Haiti, the Church reveals the face of Christ, suffering Servant, in the distressing traits of this people. Conscious of human dignity, she reiterates her commitment to serving the Haitian people, the poor and all people, following the Word of God and her own social teaching. She works to build a society and civilization of peace and love with “truth as the base for human relations, justice as the rule, mutual love as the motor and liberty as the climate,” as Blessed Pope John XXIII said in his encyclical Pacem in Terris. These four basic requirements pervade in our personal comportment, and our collective responsibilities: to be present in societal institutions, to promote the common good, to exercise influence on the framework of society. Pope John Paul II has good reason to plead for a true transformation of the framework of society, for “that the poor…begin to hope again.1” We believe that every Haitian, called to lead the good fight, must do everything possible to eradicate these failings of improvisation and opportunism, in matters as serious as governance, in order to devote themselves body and soul to the service of the Common Good, and not seek to gain power for their own benefit.
10. The scandalous conditions that exist in our country call out to us. They trigger in us an awakening for a new beginning. Now is the time that all, sons and daughters of God, men and women of the government, men and women of all social classes, must commit to change our hearts, our mentality, that is to say our way of thinking, of behaving, of acting and of running the country. This must be a profound and constant conversion that turns us away from hate, violence, vengeance and all that could mutually destroy us. Only the establishment of a new mentality will bring us gradually to a new society.
A New Mentality
11. What is this new mentality? Among other things, it postulates, in families, in schools, in different socio-political and professional groups, the acceptance and validation of oneself and one’s own cultural and moral richness, truth and respect for the spoken word, authenticity and confidence in relations with others, transparency and honesty in the management of public affairs.
12. We firmly urge all the sons and daughters of Haiti to promote and respect the fundamental rights of all human beings, to recognize the dignity of each Haitian, rich or poor, man or woman, urbanite or peasant, employee or employer, governed or governing, infirm or healthy, young or old.
13. We urge all our brothers and sisters to cultivate among themselves a spirit of fraternity, sharing and solidarity. Let us build in unity the “civilization of love.”
A New Society
14. The current Haitian society calls for a profound change in all constituents. In the name of Christ and His Church, we raise up our voices to ask all Haitians to work for the advent of a new society and a new way of governing the country, with a foundation in:
15. Orderly state: It is time that a true orderly state be established in this country, a true democracy where all have the same rights, but where all are equally accountable under laws and obligations that govern the nation and individual relations. Those whose mission it is to enforce these laws take on this task fully: to make sure that justice is served to whom it is due, that holding periods respect the prescribed time limits, that the image of justice be unmarred by corruption, that vengeance not take the place of justice, and that justice not become an instrument of vengeance.
16. Moral Values: The current situation in our country demands from all, and especially our young people, the sense of effort, the spirit of sacrifice and the conscience of moral responsibility. The credibility of our institutions depends on the practice of the values of honor and truth. Those whose task it is to manage public affairs will fulfill that task with loyalty and a professional conscience.
17. The Common Good: Haiti is our common heritage, to be promoted, protected and enhanced. Property, such as public and private buildings and businesses, the State’s assets and real estate, the roads, the bridges must be respected. One cannot damage them without incurring the appropriate penalty. So that all Haitians can engage in building a Haiti where it is good to live, as brothers and sisters, in unity, equality and liberty.
18. We have made the commitment to walk the path with the people, that is to say to help them to continue their march on the path of the Gospel which is also the path of true liberation. Here are several concrete propositions that allow concerned authorities and citizens to get involved in governance.
19. Assembly of the People: We propose that, as soon as possible, an assembly be formed, composed of representatives from all social classes and all private and public professional categories in the country. This is the desire, moreover, already expressed by several sectors. This should be taken into account, and we are ready to invest ourselves in it. This assembly would be a sort of “General States of the Nation.” After two hundred years of independence, it is necessary and even urgent that Haitians talk to each other about the state of the nation and make propositions for its future. Should not the year 2004 be a beacon year that lights this future, a stepping stone year for a new beginning, a key year that opens new perspectives? Should not Haitians, from this year on, work together to rebuild their country, on a material and moral plan, drawing from the wise lessons learned from the events of our national history during the past 200 years?
20. Ecology: Faced with the environmental degradation and deforestation of the country, reforestation is a necessity. We recommend that the tops of the mountains and hills be rapidly protected with a crown of trees. We must also protect the banks of the rivers, which are part of the private domain of the State, and which are often turned into pastures by riverside residents. The decree creating community forests should be reestablished and those forests should be entrusted to community leaders. We hope that the Environmental Ministry technicians find another solution to the crucial problem posed by the use of wood for burning. We suggest that a campaign of purification for a clean Haiti be planned. We also hope that a healthy competition for cleanliness is born between the districts. Could we not envision awarding prizes to them?
21. Public Resources: We demand that the Banque Centrale be immediately made independent of the government, so that it may better carry out its role as regulator of public resources. We also demand that the budget of the Republic be made public and thus be made known to different members of society, several months before it is presented to the Parliament.
22. Education: If we want to rebuild our country, we need a new vision of education, based on values that support the sense of the individual and the family, respect for life, patriotism and the common good. We have made school an industry, one of the most profitable; this is detrimental, as much to low-income schools as to the quality of education itself. To remedy this, we must create more public schools. For this we must prepare teachers conscious of their responsibilities. As for the young people, they must be introduced to analyzing situations and educated with a love for their country that will incite them to want to live here in order to do their part for its development. Social communication has taken such an important role in the modern world that we must use it to our advantage in the domain of education, young and adult alike.
23. Agricultural Production: It is unacceptable that in our essentially agricultural country we must go outside our borders to supply ourselves with products such as: okra, ‘mirliton’, bananas, limes, coconuts, corn, beans and rice. Here we sound the alarm to the Government that agricultural production needs to take back its rights, be validated, encouraged and even subsidized.
24. Protection of Citizens and Territory: No nation can be indifferent towards the protection of its citizens and the defense of its territory. To accomplish this task, it establishes guards and trains them to this effect. We have today a nation that is being assisted in this domain. This must be transitional and short-term. The National Police, professionalized, must be organized, provided with the means enabling them to ensure security, in the cities and villages as well as in public areas. As for the “disbanded” military, we must find, as soon as possible, an appeasing solution to a problem becoming more preoccupying every day. Let us encourage all steps in this direction.
25. Elections: May the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) have an elevated consciousness of their responsibilities to the Nation. That they may not, at any moment, let themselves be influenced by internal or external pressure. We encourage the CEP to stay on course towards the running of the elections. The State and the Government must give them all necessary support for the optimal carrying out of their weighty and delicate mission.
26. The Fight Against Insecurity: Currently the fight against insecurity constitutes a grave wound in our country. It manifests itself in armed robbery, the rape of children of both sexes, the taking of hostages, assassinations, etc. This situation is paralyzing the daily activities of the country’s life and is a major obstacle to foreign investment. The proliferation of illegal arms and impunity are, among others, two factors that maintain this insecurity. Disarmament is essential. It is urgent. It is the responsibility of the Government and the International Community to well define the roles and to resolutely take the appropriate measures. Through disarmament and legal sanctions, the problem of insecurity would be, for a large part, resolved.
27. To the blessed intercession of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the Patroness of Haiti, we entrust all our aspirations and those of our people in this Bicentennial year.
Cayes, September 29th, 2004,
On the feast of St. Michael the Archangel.
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