“It is now that they must act to change lives in Haiti. Tomorrow will be too late”. This is the urgent call of the Bishops’ Conference of Haiti in an open letter [dated September 27] addressed to Haiti’s political leaders whom the bishops blame for the country’s worsening economic crisis and the intensifying street it has sparked. In the letter the catholic leaders compare the prevailing situation as “a state of fratricidal warfare”.
In a phone call with the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Bishop Désinord Jean of Hinche, Haiti, describes the distress that Haitians have been suffering for more than a month: “People cannot go out. We are enclosed in our homes. All the roads are blocked. Even in urgent cases ambulances or emergency cars cannot move. We don’t have fuel. Markets are not functioning. Schools have been closed throughout the country. The situation affects the whole nation.”
The plight of the population in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere is devastating. Among the challenges Haiti has had to face was the reconstruction of the country after the terrible earthquake of 2010 and Hurricane Matthew of 2016, as well as an epidemic of cholera and a stagnant economy in a highly polarized political climate.
Social unrest has marked the term of President Jovenel Moïse. One of the reasons is extreme poverty and lack of job opportunities. Bishop Jean confirms this: “80 percent of people in the country are unemployed. And this in a country where 65 percent of the population is young. The extreme poverty takes away all hope from people”.
Meanwhile, accusations of corruption have triggered violent street demonstrations. Bishop Jean said that “destroying the country is not a solution. It is probably a way to express frustration but it is not the solution. We have to find the way to talk.”
In their open letter, the Haitian bishops call on government officials to “assume their responsibilities to ensure the smooth running of the country and the institutions.” The letter charges that the country’s leadership is “morally responsible for the safety and well-being of the population. In the first place, the President of the Republic. If the country is on fire, it is because of their irresponsibility.”
Bishop Jean says that “despite our repeated pleas for nearly two years, Haiti’s politicians remain deaf. In July 2018 we already had a big crisis and the government did nothing. But the other political parties should also work on a solution. The worst thing is that the different factions are not open for any dialogue”.
Bishop Jean, quoting the open letter, made an urgent plea for support for Haiti “on this difficult and painful journey through the desert,” Addressing ACN benefactors, he said: “I want to thank ACN for your support all over the years. You have been very generous and we know that you love our country. Now we need your prayers. Please pray for us. This country is dying. We know that God is with us but sometimes we could feel discourage. We need know your prayers.”