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Life in Haiti hard, Church works to bring hope

On Friday, March 22, President of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC), Archbishop Charles Jason Gordon spoke via Zoom with Archbishop Launay Saturné of Cap Haitien about the situation in Haiti. The conversation was translated into English by the AEC, and reformatted into the following article.

According to Archbishop Launay Saturné, “The crisis Haiti is experiencing is a multi-dimensional crisis, for several years now, but after some time it became more acute, so now the country is hit by insecurity and no one is escaping from this insecurity.”

Archbishop Launay Saturné

The dire situation has left many Haitians feeling hopeless. Large numbers of Haitians, seeing no prospects at home, have undertaken dangerous journeys to flee the country.

As Archbishop Saturné explained, “The situation is bringing the people to hopelessness. When they are hit with such insecurity, the young people and the not so young, have the tendency to leave the country and go abroad to seek a better life.”

Archbishop Saturné painted a bleak picture of the realities on the ground, especially in the capital Port-au-Prince: “There is at the moment an absence of the state. The state has been weakened. Almost all the hospitals are not functioning in the metropolitan area of Port au Prince. The spaces occupied by the schools have become the places where the gangs have invaded. There are many neighbourhoods where the inhabitants have left or have been forced to leave because of the violence.”

With institutions like hospitals and schools crippled by gang violence and a lack of state authority, basic services and societal functions have essentially collapsed in parts of the country.

Archbishop Saturné described the compounding effects: “There is no electricity. There is a scarcity of water. There is a scarcity of food because of the security on the roadways. There is no transport…the supermarkets are worse, the public markets have been evacuated as the people have no security.”

The lack of security on transportation routes has made it extremely difficult to get food, water, and other essentials to many areas. Markets and shops have been abandoned out of fear. Even the most fundamental human needs are not being met for countless Haitians.

“For sick people there is no hospital. These sick are not getting any care, so it’s a situation that does not give you any confidence,” the Archbishop lamented.

The cumulative effects of the security vacuum, gang dominance, and collapse of infrastructure and services have created an untenable situation, forcing many to flee if they can.

Archbishop Saturné stated: “Mothers, pregnant women, children, the young who are living in the open. They were forced to abandon all they had. A very difficult situation.”

With little hope or prospects at home, huge numbers have taken the desperate step of leaving Haiti entirely. “You know that a lot of people have left the country. They have left to seek a better life. It is because there is total uncertainty.”

For those who remain, both fear and resignation have set in according to the Archbishop: “It is time for us to arrive at a solution for the people to hope and function in a normal situation because the intention at the social level gives rise to a human intention and that can further give rise to serious illness. That is not good for the society and neither is it good for life in the society.”


Church targeted

Despite the immense challenges, the Church has tried to be a source of hope and consolation for the suffering people through its institutions focused on justice, peace, education, humanitarian aid and social doctrine. However, the Church itself has become a direct target of the violence.

“Some nuns were kidnapped recently in the capital…That shows the Church also in a real way experiences this insecurity and suffering,” Archbishop Saturné stated. “We have spoken about the nuns but there were priests who were kidnapped.”

He expressed bafflement at church personnel being attacked despite their service to the community. “It makes us laugh and realise that the good they are doing in the schools, universities, the hospitals, they have an active presence among these people. Despite all that, they have been victims.”

The root causes appear to be poverty, lack of security, and powerful criminal gangs better armed than legal authorities. “What we have noticed is that law enforcement and security have to face the gangs, and the gangs have greater numbers and are better armed.”

Archbishop Saturné called for international assistance to strengthen Haiti’s security forces logistically and technically, as well as efforts to stem the flow of illegal weapons and ammunition.

The Church remains committed to supporting the struggling population. “The Church is also supporting the people’s hopes, because the situation is bringing the people to hopelessness,” the Archbishop affirmed.

He appealed for continued solidarity and aid from the international community, expressing gratitude for statements of support from Pope Francis and others. “We recognise those expressions of love and what we ask is that you intensify this solidarity and this love.”

Looking ahead to the Easter season, Archbishop Saturné voiced the hope that “the Resurrection of Jesus be the occasion for Haiti to achieve victory against the evil forces which are hindering us from living like humans, like sons of God on the move.”