Message from the Bishops of Haiti on the Eve of the Election, April 8, 2005
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Dear Fellow Citizens,
It is with a feeling of profound solidarity that we Bishops of Haiti, meeting in plenary assembly under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and intent on walking the path with you, greet you and present to you these reflections on the eve of our country's upcoming elections.
- The Elections Are Our Affair
We call to mind today the Bicentenary of Independence, when we celebrated the gift of liberty and rejected all oppression. We will soon come up on the elections, national and at all levels, from the collective territories (ASEC, CASEC, MAIRIE) to the legislative and presidential. We will put the destiny of our people and our nation in the hands of the men and women that we will choose. It is a necessary undertaking, but a very risky one. We willingly welcome and accept the participation of the International Community, yet we will not let anyone impose anything on us. The elections are, after all, our affair.
- A Necessary Turning Point in History
These elections call out to the individual and the collective consciences and demand judicious choices. Important stakes are involved, on which depend the future of the country and the changes so greatly desired by all. Many still hesitate to engage themselves in it. We believe, however, that it is a normal and legitimate road that can help establish a working state. Also, we encourage you, dear compatriots, to exercise your prerogatives by going to the polls. This turning point in history obliges us to do so. For this, it is necessary to establish and guarantee the conditions for true security.
- Citizens' Rights and Duties
Citizens have the right and the duty to choose their leaders, to participate in the organization of national life and to exercise just control of public property. Thus, the Common Good is promoted with greater authenticity. To this end, the Church recognizes that it is solely the right of its lay members to directly and actively intervene in politics. "It is one of the highest forms of charity," said Paul VI. A noble task, in fact, that consists of procuring for each and every one that which is necessary for their fulfillment! What is this, in fact, but the Common Good, if it , according to the Vatican II Council, "embraces the sum total of all those conditions of social life which enable individuals, families and organizations to achieve complete and efficacious fulfilment." (Gaudium et Spes, No. 74)
- The Intervention of the Church
As for the Church, she has the right and the duty to intervene in the matter, because by her nature she is at the service of people, to light and mark out their path. She also has the duty to form consciences, to remind all of their dignity as beings created in the image of God, with inalienable rights. She does this with the help of principles of the Gospel and her own social teaching.
- General Principles
Here are several general principles that enable one to analyze and evaluate the positions that are drawn and the programs that are proposed:
- Respect for the human person and his prerogatives
- Concern for the Common Good
- The duty to vote
- The sense of honor and given word, which forbids lying
- Honesty and integrity, which prohibit mismanagement, embezzlement, corruption
- Civic and patriotic awareness, which place human well-being above all material goods, and collective interests above special interests, even legitimate ones
- The Actors on the Scene
The country needs competent women and men who know the territory, that is, the country's real needs and the challenges to be overcome; unifying men and women whose vision is their compass: visionaries and peacemakers. Here are several criteria for discerning the different actors appearing on the national scene:
- The Voters
Voters, you are the principal actors in the electoral contests. You should not have confidence in candidates who do not offer the guarantee that they will work for the good of the people. Who are they?
- Those who have not proved themselves in the arena
- Those who do not present a coherent, realistic program responding to the country's needs
- Those who promise mountains and miracles and do not reveal concrete ways to accomplish them
- Those whose honor cannot be verified, regardless of all their talking
- Those who assume the right to buy your conscience or to profit from your misery by offering you money, drinks or favors
- The Candidates
You are exercising a civic right by running for an electoral position, in order to serve your country by offering your best to help her develop, grow and prosper. However, this involves a pressing duty that you cannot avoid, that of cultivating patriotism and respecting your potential voters' consciences, votes and, above all, the trust they place in you. Accomplishing unity, even at the price of costly renunciations, would have double interest for you. First of all, it would make the voters' choice easier and, second, it would avoid the detrimental dispersion of your voices. So, in order to make the elections less laborious, we recommend that you form alliances or unions among parties with similar positions, following a patriotic dialogue; not simply alliances of circumstance or just for the sake of unifying, but pragmatic alliances, based on reason.
- The Climate of Security
We must have a climate that will allow the smooth unfolding of the electoral operations, from the inscription phase to the announcement of the polls' results. There are several forces on which the indispensable security of these elections depends.
- The PEC
To you, members of the Provisional Electoral Council, hand-picked by the institutions that you represent; despite the tangible limits of the Electoral Decree, we give our support and recommend to you not to depart from honesty, integrity and neutrality, the guarantors or your credibility.
- The Government
First of all, it falls to the Government to put everything in place to ensure the smooth unfolding of the elections. We ask you members of the Government to counter this recurrent and galloping insecurity in a rational and effective manner. The Nation has the right to ask you, members of the Government, for a clear and concise definition of the different roles of the forces present in the country.
- Those Who Use Violence
To those who use violence to intimidate voters and candidates, whatever side you belong to, you are obligated as citizens to respect others' opinions and positions, as well as the exercise of their inalienable rights. Do not try to reinforce confusion and fear; the situation is already more than chaotic. Your rights end where those of others begin, even of those with whom you do not share convictions or undertakings. We pray you, put down your arms!
- The National Police
We exhort you, members of the National Police, to exercise your duty as citizens, demonstrating proof of exemplary professionalism, avoiding partisan attitude and endeavoring to honor to the fullest your motto, "Protect and Serve," by your courage, bravery, self-control.
As for you, members of MINUSTAH, members of this foreign force on our soil, we were always told that you were there to accompany our Police in keeping the peace. In our opinion, that also means accompanying the building of that peace. We recommend to you consultation and harmony with the National Police, in respect of the laws of the nation.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Dear Compatriots,
- The stakes are large. The future of the country depends on it. All of our human efforts are necessary and legitimate, but limited. Only the help from above will enable us to attain our objective. Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guard the city, in vain does the guard keep watch. (Ps. 127,1)
- Also, we invite our faithful and all good people to unite in communion with us in a chain of prayer in this particularly delicate period in the nation's life. We implore the intercession of Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help and Patroness of Haiti, that she accompany us and watch over us.
- Given at the Headquarters of the Episcopal Conference of Haiti, Friday April 8, 2005, by the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Haiti.
Mgr. Louis N. KEBREAU, SDB
Bishop of Hinche
Mgr Loseph LAFONTANT
Auxiliary Bishop of Port-au-Prince
Secretary General, CEH
Mgr Emmanuel CONSTANT
Bishop Emeritus of Gonaives
General Counsel, CEH
Mgr Hubert CONSTANT, OMI
Archbishop of Cap-Haitien
Mgr Willy ROMELUS
Bishop of Jeremie
Mgr Frantz COLIMON
Bishop of Port-de Paix
Mgr Francois GAYOT, SMM
Archbishop Emeritus of Cap-Haitien
Mgr Pierre A. DUMAS
Auxiliary Bishop of Port-au-Prince
Mgr Yves Marie PEAN, CSC
Bishop of Gonaives
Mgr Joseph Serge MOIT
Coadjutor Archbishop of Port-au-Prince
Apostolic Administrator Sede Plena
Mgr Francois Wolff LIGONDE
Archbishop of Port-au-Prince
Mgr Guire POULARD
Bishop of Jacmel
Mgr Alix VERRIER
Bishop of Les Cayes
Mgr Chibly LANGLOIS
Bishop of Fort-Liberte
Mgr Pierre-Antoine PAULO, OMI
Coadjutor Bishop of Port-de-Paix
Mgr Simon P. SAINT-HILLIEN, CSC
Auxiliary Bishop Port-au-Prince