|Assassinated Haiti President Jovenel Moise|
Instead, it was a dramatic and tragic event certain to plunge the poor nation deeper into turmoil and make life even more difficult for their friends, colleagues, and partners who live there.
Southern New England churches have worked in Haiti for decades, providing food support, building schools, clinics, and other essential facilities, and responding to other needs.
These efforts were historically undertaken by ministries organized in specific states. Following the creation of the Southern New England Conference, these groups are working collaboratively, with plans for further integration of efforts and resources.
After learning that a group of heavily armed men entered the Port-au-Prince home of President Moise, killing him and leaving his wife, Martine, critically injured, SNEC members who have been active in these ministries shared their reflections on this time.
(Learn more about the history of Haiti.)
~ The Rev. James Ross II, Minister for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Our Support Can Make a Huge Difference for HaitiansBy Shirley Hardison and Suzanne Swanson, Haiti Task Force
The news about the assassination of President Moise, came as no surprise, really, since his presidency has been so controversial, and political instability has led to so much violence. At the same time, it was heartbreakingly shocking. Shocking because, whether one agreed with his political positions or how one judged his capability as a leader of Haiti, it shakes one’s faith in humanity to see the taking of a human life used as a solution to an incredibly complex problem – or any problem for that matter.
The news reports have described in varying detail the assassination and have gone on to attempt to describe the situation in Haiti that led to the horrendous event. The reports attempt to summarize the political situation in the country, mention the escalating violence in the streets and on the roads and the worsening economic conditions in this poorest of countries.
But what the news has not been able to depict is the toll these most recent years of worsening conditions have taken on the people of Haiti – those who have lived with gunshots outside their homes, making it unsafe for their children to go to school and unsafe for them to go to work. They tell neither the stories of people without enough money to buy food – nor that even if they had money, it would not be safe for them to go out to find food.
In the 30-plus years that the Haiti Task Force (formerly known as the Rhode Island Haiti Task Force) has worked in Haiti, we have never known the humanitarian situation to be so dire. The Task Force, alongside its Haitian partners and friends has helped build schools, churches, a clinic, and water wells in communities throughout the country. The Task Force has provided support to several orphanages, and for the past eight years has conducted a nutrition program providing much needed high quality animal protein in the form of a hard-boiled egg every day to children in schools and orphanages throughout Haiti.
We have not been able to travel to Haiti for over a year and a half now because of the violence, but we stay in constant contact with our friends and partners there. In the past few months, those communications have become desperate pleas for help. We have had to shift the focus of our programs to help our partners and friends survive what is happening in their country. Their stories do not make it into the news reports, nor could any report (including this one) convey the fear and desperation we hear in their voices now. Our long-term relationships have been strong and trusting so that daily communications allow for a chance to share their stories and an opportunity for support and care.
Several of our translators have had to flee from their homes with their children and their scant belongings because the shootings in the neighborhood are constant. Finding safe housing is not easy and it is expensive. One man has sent his wife and children to the countryside to stay with other family members while he stays in their home to protect it from being set on fire, something he witnesses at other houses almost daily. Another found a school where his family could stay while he searched for housing in a safer neighborhood.
The building that houses the church, school, and a clinic we helped build has been turned into a shelter for those who are homeless now, driven from their homes by the gangs roaming the streets shooting randomly and often kidnapping children. Currently, the pastors, community leaders and nurses in the clinic are distributing food and water to those with such dire humanitarian needs.
The director of an orphanage which we have helped since the 2010 earthquake cannot safely leave the grounds to get food for the children who live there. And these are only a few of the stories we hear now daily. Last month, we had to suspend the delivery of eggs to the “Egg-A-Day” sites because it was too dangerous for our team to pick up and deliver the eggs. The streets were often closed anyway due to violent demonstrations.
Our partners in Haiti all express a need to care for their families -- and especially their children-- who have experienced unimaginable trauma from the ongoing gunshots and killings. They express a great deal of fear and anxiety as to what the future holds for their country. But their faith is strong, and they pray often and express their strong belief that God will provide a solution for the country. They long for strong and honest leadership to support ethical 2022 elections that will foster future growth of the country.
The Haiti Task Force has received very generous donations to send to our partners to assist in the purchase of food and water for people who have fled their homes and are living on the streets. This fundraising project will continue as we seek to assist with these emergent needs for as long as possible. What we do can make a significant difference in the lives of many.
Pray for the People of HaitiBy Mary Friedman
First Church of Christ, Longmeadow (MA) and First Churches of Northampton (MA) have partnered with the National Spiritual Council of Churches of Haiti (Conseil National Spirituel Des Eglises D’haiti), or CONASPEH, for many years to support CONASPEH schools and churches. Members from both congregations normally travel to Haiti at least once a year to visit mission partners. After the assassination, the congregations have reached out to their Haitian partners to check on their safety and get a sense of what is happening on the ground in that fragile country.
CONTEXT: Haiti was facing enormous challenges prior to the assassination. The country never fully recovered from the 2010 earthquake that killed at least 220,000 people and the cholera epidemic that followed it; that outbreak was started when United Nations forces inadvertently brought the bacteria into the country. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew devastated large portions of Haiti. Haiti has yet to begin vaccinating its citizens against Covid-19. Food insecurity is rampant.
Last year saw an uptick in gang violence and kidnapping, which has continued until the present. There also is history of political corruption, and President Moise had been ruling by decree. There have been no parliamentary elections and Parliament was dismissed in January 2020; at his death, Moise was just one of 11 elected officials in a country of 11 million people. Many Haitians have not been happy with President Moise and the changes he proposed to the country’s constitution.
OUR RESPONSE: Members of the two Massachusetts congregations have spoken or texted with friends in Haiti. Bishop Francoise Villier, Executive Director of CONASPEH, has issued a statement urging calm. At present, she is with family in Florida but plans to return to Haiti in August. She asked that people think before they speak and not say things unless they are certain of the facts. She asked that everyone put their trust in God.
The St. Andre School at CONASPEH headquarters is not in session now because of summer vacation. Most Haitians are “hunkered down” at home trying to listen to news on the radio or TV. But they must go out to try to get food. The streets in Port-au-Prince are more chaotic than out in the countryside.
We hold the people of Haiti in our hearts and in prayers as they face yet another enormous challenge. Pray that they may find safety, clean water, enough food, the rule of law, good education, jobs, housing, and medical care that they so richly deserve. Pray that we and other more developed countries will share our vaccines with those who need them so desperately.
“I can’t understand how things will be,” said Dr. Frenaud Dorilien, our friend in Haiti. “Let’s wait for tomorrow. We just want a better life down here.”
Jane Jakobek, a longtime member of First Church, Longmeadow, shared an inspiring story about an encounter when she underwent spinal fusion surgery earlier this month in Cape Coral, Florida, where she now lives. While hospitalized, Jane met a Haitian nurse named Ann. Jane told Ann about the church’s partnership with a program in Haiti that has a nursing school at CONASPEH in Port-au-Prince.
And some good news…
Ann, it turns out, graduated from this school of nursing – the Karen School of Nursing at CONASPEH -- and she received one of the nursing kits that we donated as alternative Christmas gifts. The kits contained a stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, thermometer, pen light, nurses watch, and other nursing essentials.
Nurse Ann’s sister also went to the nursing school, but, sadly, died in the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Ann said to Jane, “You don’t know what your church did for us… the support from your church… it gave us hope! It renewed our faith.”
We also received a message from Veniel Jean, the innkeeper at Wall’s Guest House in Delmas, Port-au-Prince, where we stay when visiting Haiti.
“Thank you so much for your message,” Veniel Jean said. “We truly appreciate it. Thank God, we’re all doing very well and safe. A lot of bad news in Haiti. We are not worried; we believe in Psalm 91. Thank you so much again, keep praying for us.”
You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.”
For God will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence;
God will cover you with God’s pinions, and under God’s wings you will find refuge; God’s faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night, or the arrow that flies by day, or the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent.
For God will command the angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.
Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name.
When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble,
I will rescue them and honor them
With long life I will satisfy them and show them my salvation.
To Contribute: Checks for Haiti relief can be sent to the Southern New England Conference Please put “Haiti General Purpose” on the memo line.
Mail checks to:
125 Sherman Street
Hartford, Ct. 06105