Haiti has been under the world’s microscope for several phenomena occurring over the years. If the news is not about natural disaster strikes, then it is continued political unrest caused by corruption and bad leadership. Haiti has already experienced mass destruction and loss of human life that those who are connected with this country will never forget.
- January 12, 2010: The earthquake that killed over 250,000 people
- 2004 and 2008: Flooding in Gonaives that took away the lives of over 3,000 children and families and destroying thousands of properties
- Breakthrough of cholera epidemics that killed nearly 10,000 all over the nation
- Political turbulence all through the past 3 decades of Haiti history
This list goes on and on. Even with all these bad reports, people who are living in the country right now will testify that things are not getting any better with the current situation. The assassination of the elected president last summer left the country without executive direction has been worsened by kidnapping, violence, corruption everywhere, and gangs infesting the nation. Hope for a better Haiti seems to be an illusion.
Now, with a focus on today’s reality I know there are as many answers to questions related to the current state of Haiti as there are people. As a Haitian living in the country, I think it’s important to ask ourselves some key questions. Here are some of them and their answers in my perspective.
In your opinion, what caused this situation?
The cause of the current nightmare Haiti is living right now needs to be seen from different angles. First it will be good to go back to history, take in consideration the harmful habit in the Haitian culture of protest, both before and after they became an independent nation. We also must consider how long the practice of corruption in public administration has existed. And then, take into account the state of things before and after the assassination of the president and how things got worsen or escalated quickly.
Koupe tèt boule kay is a violent creole expression that lays out clearly the history of violence. Its origin is in the culture of protest of the Haitian nation. Before 1804, when the independence of this nation would be pronounced and declared, a victory through the battles against its oppressors were only possible according to Haitian war leaders by koupe tet boule kay, literally translated Cutting head off and burning their houses/or plantations. Back in slavery time, slave insurrection came in the form of burning houses and plantations. It was their power to strike back against injustice. It was a form of protest that settled in the Caribbean, Latin America and elsewhere. In Haiti, this practice obviously did not play in favor of the economy as time went on.
Even as Haiti gained independence, it was rejected by the rest of the world. This new nation knew back then, there was no way the country could rise and develop an economy when the primary goods are being destroyed, yet the practice has persisted. Regardless of past results, today the same practice is used by the most marginalized as a tool each time protestors are angry.
The father of the Nation, Jean Jacques Dessalines, was unfortunately assassinated 2 years after his glorious victory against the greatest army back then: the French. With this horrible event, his dream for the most marginalized died with him. In fact, I believe the perpetrators of this action on their side did such an act in their ego satisfaction. Since the nation had different social classes built on marginalization already, the elite classes which consisted of the privileged ( mulattoes and remaining plantation owners) took over not just the economy but political power for a while. This created continuing marginalization of the most oppressed people, thus more frustration and continued violence. The other problem at origin that has continued is corruption in public administration. This one is a long story, but suffice to say most of the governments the country knew so far were corrupted. No need for a rocket science brain to understand that corruption kills economies, destroys nations.
Now to answer the second aspect of the question, Let’s admit that when all structural institutions in a country are being destroyed: Senate, Justice system, public services… Then, add on top of it the president is assassinated in a really humiliating manner leaving the country with absolutely no direction; it is chaos. No need to ask why or what causes things to be escalated. This country is in the lowest state of its suffering. Things are not under control, contrary to corrupt politicians who recently claim that things are under control. There’s no effort on their part as leaders to give people hope they are working on something. That is one of the reasons there is so much of violence in the streets all over the country.
What is the hardest part about living through this current situation in Haiti?
Lack of primary resources (fuel, food, water in some locations); Need for security because we are in a stage where safety concern in general is extending to all the territory because of gang violence.
Life is really hard and dangerous in Haiti right now. Why do you think people then still choose to go out into the streets to protest?
People are protesting because they basically have no better option to make their voice heard. Protesting is sending a signal not just to the government they protest against, but it extends their voice to the international community and the world in general. It also allows them to express their frustrations, it’s a tool to gather more people together in the streets and make this public legitimacy of the protest. More people on the street makes it reasonable that it is an insurrection of the Haitian people, not just a group of political partisans.
What does a typical day look like for you and your family?
We wake up in the morning with the ritual of hoping and praying that things get better for the country. But overall, if there are strikes and riots, I will either work or take a motorcycle taxi to town getting needed supplies for the day. I also do that intentionally to witness the state of things. That usually allows me to know exactly what stores, businesses and banks are open so I can also report and update COTP collaborators if they need to come to town for groceries or banks. Sometimes it’s just impossible to get out because of violence. My wife and I are strong enough to support and survive the reality but sometimes it takes a lot of energy to try to encourage both our kids. Words and expressions of encouragement are rare at some of those moments.
How do you see the church (Body of Christ) responding to the worsening situation in Haiti?
In my honest opinion, churches need to pray and act. Praying involves agreeing together on one thing that we intentionally bring to God. Churches should come to the agreement that Haiti is not cursed, and that God loves this nation just like He loves any other nations in the world. Let’s pray for the Haitian church to influence all the elites in the country, inspiring Christians with the kingdom mindset being in politics. Praying that God give the Haitian church a balanced message that will bring the servant leadership that Christ modeled for leaders, to intentionally serve the nations of the world, particularly the most marginalized including Haiti. We can’t ignore the fact that the message of churches for decades has been evangelical only instead of kingdom focused. A balanced message will be to go back to the model of society God wanted to model with the Israel of the old testament. A society of Justice and righteousness, as the participation of church effort in establishing again the realm of God on earth. The Old Testament (Genesis in particular) shows us how God’s intention to humanity was for them to enjoy life to the highest potential of using resources available in the nature around them to develop their economy and their society. Poverty was never something God intended people to live with in the first place.
We also need to act: our money, our time and talent count to help this nation. I am so glad that God has granted me the opportunity to serve Him through the ministry of Children of the Promise for more than 2 decades. I am so honored by that. My encouragement to all supporters and partners is to follow your servant’s heart and keep doing what you’ve been doing through this organization. Without your joining hands COTP would not make it that far.
Where do you see God in the midst of this situation?
God always works in the storms of people’s lives. The greater the need the more opportunity there is for the hands of God to reach out. We are literally God’s hands, feet, mouth, ears and eyes on earth. We should never forget that it is Christian believers who represent the body of Christ on earth. Churches are in the people business. I believe that our acts towards the most vulnerable on earth are our wealth even though we are not serving others to gain God’s favor. We do what we do, reaching out because we belong to a greater kingdom. We are defending a better cause. Haiti is reportedly the poorest country in the hemisphere, though I also trust that this is due to a lack of leadership because there’s wealth in all nation’s primary resources (people, ecology, underground resources, people’s engineering, etc). The nightmare people of Haiti are living right now is an opportunity for us to serve our greater Nation (the Kingdom of God). It took God four centuries to transit from the old covenant to the new one with Christ willing to serve us through His obedience to the Father. We don’t know how long the suffering of this Nation is going to be but we know one thing: God is in control regardless how bad things are. I believe that our job is to be obedient just like Christ modeled the way for us to follow the father’s will and to be courageous. We need to trust God to do His part of the job and be confident we are not alone.
Is there a silver lining, or some good that could come out of this situation? What makes you hopeful?
A creole saying goes Lè li fè nwa se jou li pral jou, which translates as The darkest part of the night indicates the dawn is near.
Knowing our limits as humans, I will never put a time limit on when something is going to happen. But I am certain that this nation hasn’t seen anything worse than what we are living right now. I do not suggest that a military intervention will be the perfect solution, or the next leadership move in the resolution of the crisis will be the ultimate solution. But I think the worsening state of things shows how evident true help from the exterior is needed. True help doesn’t mean repeating UN mistakes; stepping in to bring Cholera or worse hurts to the country once again. It means a joint effort of the international community and the Diaspora coming in support of established law enforcement institutions already in existence. Though I believe it could also mean a specific mission to eradicate armed gangs around the country, I mean a specific mission that will work parallel with the police in a respectful manner. We experienced the UN more than once; and they always fail to fulfill their mission. At this point an armed force of any powerful army for this specific mission will be ideal except the United Nations. Furthermore, the turbulence Haiti had known gives hope because it revealed the truth on how corruption is extended broadly in all sectors of the nation’s life. The assassination of the President gives hope because it confirms the corruption he worked to eradicate. It gives hope that change is around the corner, but the missing piece is the leadership. Real leaders will need to step up for the country. This is the biggest piece to the development of this country. Like I said in the beginning, we need prayers and actions for it all.