“Hear the cry of the people of Haiti.” Religious orders call for international intervention in Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (CNS) – Religious orders operating in Haiti have called on the international community to intervene directly to crack down on the reign of terror by armed gangs, which they have described as “diabolical, frightening and unacceptable”.

The same gangs are responsible for nearly four kidnappings a day in 2022 and violence that left more than 200 dead and 3,000 forced to flee in July alone.

In an August 4 open letter to Najat Maalla M’jid, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against children, the Justice Coalition of Religious – made up of 20 religious orders – called on the international community to “react swiftly and effectively to the atrocities who are in Haiti.”

The Justice Coalition of Religious called on the international community to “response swiftly and effectively to the atrocities in Haiti.”

In a testimony document released by the Coalition, passionate Father Rick Frechette, a doctor in Port-au-Prince, said that “99% of the people on the street want a foreign military force to rescue them.” He described the situation on the streets of Port-au-Prince as “Battles Somalia-style”.

The coalition letter noted that the “Haitian state has failed in its sovereign obligation to protect the population.” It deviated from a July 29 statement by the Haitian Bishops’ Conference, which said state authority must be restored and the government must take immediate action to “disarm gangs, enable police to crack down on violent crime and a climate of serenity to create trust.” The bishops’ message ended by calling on the international community to act.

“99% of people on the street want a foreign military force to rescue them.”

The calls from bishops and religious came after a month of violence in Port-au-Prince, in which a 10-day battle between two armed gangs in the populous Cité Soleil slum killed 209 and forced 3,000 to flee. On July 24, a police inspector was killed outside the parish during a Sunday service at a Protestant church in Croix-des-Bouquets, bringing the number of officers killed in 2022 to more than 30.

On July 27, the Catholic cathedral in Port-au-Prince was torched during a turf war between two gangs; Firefighters were able to put out the fire before it caused any major damage.

Gangs were also responsible for arson attacks on courthouses in Port-au-Prince and Croix-des-Bouquets; Files and evidence were burned.

Father Frechette said he has spent the last two weeks “on my stomach in the Cité Soleil and in the burned cathedral”.

A month ago, a 10-day battle between two armed gangs killed 209 and forced 3,000 to flee.

“It is more than obvious that there is no state,” he wrote. The priest said there was a “civil war disguised as gang wars” and wrote that the gangs were “sponsored by politicians, the government and other actors”.

The Justice Coalition of Religious described the UN Security Council’s unanimous vote on July 16 to extend the mandate of a small political UN mission in the country as “far from what Haiti needs from the UN to ensure the protection of life and people.” to improve the human rights of Haitians”. It called a vote to ban the sale of small arms to Haiti “inadequate”.

The coalition’s demands were repeated in an August 6 Washington Post editorial that called for “muscular international intervention” and denounced the much-proclaimed “Haitian-led solution” as a chimera.

“It is more than obvious that there is no state.”

The situation has affected the activities of religious orders in Haiti. The Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, who work near Croix-des-Bouquets, reported losing $250,000 in funding for new projects that would have protected women and children and reduced child trafficking because of the violence; Investors considered the situation too risky.

“When you leave home, you take charge of your life and carry a coffin on your shoulder,” one team member described the state of constant fear for his life.

Croix-des-Bouquets is the area where 17 North American missionaries were kidnapped in 2021 and held for two months by the notorious Mawozo gang.

“When you leave home, you take charge of your life and carry a coffin on your shoulder.”

The Sisters of Charity of St Elizabeth reported that the headmaster of the school run by the Order was recently kidnapped by a gang. The headmaster, known as Pastor Cesar, was released when one of the kidnappers, a former student at the school, recognized him and told the others that the pastor was doing a lot of good in the community. The priest, who lives in Croix-des-Bouquets, fears he will be kidnapped again.

The same school offers a free medical clinic for children and local residents, but the doctor stops coming to the school for fear of being kidnapped and held for ransom. The doctor now sees patients on Zoom when there is power, and the on-site nurse dispenses prescribed medication.

“Almost all Haitians ask why the international community is not coming to their aid,” the Justice Coalition of Religious wrote in the open letter. “We urge you to listen to the cry of the people of Haiti”, as expressed in the testimonies of some religious working in that country.

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