Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Haiti: a year after

"[Who] proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
 – Luke 10:36-37

I am growing in awareness of the disaster that struck Haiti one year ago today. And which the Haitian people are still experiencing in their daily lives.

There are a million people in Haiti living in tents. This is a year after, and after millions of dollars have been donated to help the victims of the earthquake.

I was speaking with my neighbor, who is himself Haitian, and he was quite openly disapproving of the manner in which the NGOs (non-governmental relief organizations) have handled the crisis. He visited there sometime around August and was struck by how little had been done to directly help the people of Haiti.

A similar impression was related by my parish priest who had just come back from a visit to Haiti. From his description it seems that the conditions are as if the earthquake had just happened yesterday.

Christian groups – and especially the Catholic Church – have been among the top charities sending funds to help the Haitian people. Haiti is 80% Catholic. Today, Pope Benedict XVI sent an additional aid of one million dollars to Haiti.

If the answer was just to send more money, then there would be reason for optimism. But already billions of dollars have been pledged. Much of that money remains unspent.

Haiti is a reminder to us that there is something terribly wrong with our society. We seem unwilling and incapable to really stretch out a helping hand to our neighbors. We delegate this task to others as if it were something detestable.

There is a huge gulf between the Christian moral teachings that our society professes to believe in and our daily lives. Charity is a word that is despised by liberals and conservatives alike. We are quick to offer excuses as to why this is true.

What seems to be lacking is a real Christian spiritual foundation for our society. And in Haiti we see the consequences of this as it directly effects the lives of millions of people.

Imagine if we were a society that is truly based on the love, faith and charity that Christ taught us. We would never allow our brothers and sisters to suffer like those in Haiti have suffered over this past year.

The world needs to change; we need to examine our lives and our priorities and begin to live like true disciples of Christ. The change begins with prayer, for ourselves and for those in Haiti who are suffering. Once there is a real transformation of our hearts, then God will take care of the rest.

Politics is not going to change the situation; economics is not going to change the situation. It will take a much more powerful force to bring about any real and lasting change.

Please pray every day for Haiti – the young and old, the men and women; especially the poor – those living in tents. Keep them in your thoughts. And ask them to pray for us.

2 comments:

  1. I had no idea that the situation is still that bad.
    I remember that in our high school we collect money to send to Haiti and one of my teachers told me that they wanted to make sure that money was going to the right hands.

    Then I wonder, why if people is collecting and sending money there is still so much destruction?
    I hope is not greed or indifference.

    I will pray for them and for the many challenges that we face today.

    God bless you!

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  2. Hi Ride. Sorry for not posting any specific links like I usually do. I'm sure you can find information through Google about current conditions in Haiti.

    I certainly don't want to discourage people from contributing to aid relief. This is the least we can do. Our local Catholic church has partnered with a church in Haiti to aid in reconstruction. I think this is a good model to follow.

    Here is an excerpt from an article that describes the dignity with which many Haitians have responded to their plight in commemorating the anniversary of the earthquake.

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    Haitians turn out for one-year anniversary of quake

    A year later, nearly a million Haitians remain in tents or other temporary shelter. The death of so many has left gaping holes in Haitian society, and the psychological wounds are still fresh.

    In this fervently religious nation, Wednesday was an official "day of reflection." To mourn, thousands of Haitians walked miles to reach churches throughout Port-au-Prince, the capital, where priests and ministers extolled people to be thankful they were alive and to never forget the dead. In at least one case, a minister also scolded the international community for failing to achieve significant reconstruction.

    People filled the streets for hours. Rail-thin men dressed in polyester suits. Women in bonnets, Bibles tucked under their arms, hauling well-scrubbed children. Little girls wearing ribbons of every color in their hair. And amputees, hobbling along on crutches. Most wore pristine white, the color of mourning in Haiti.

    For some, the experience seemed overwhelming. Men and women stopped in their tracks, raised their hands heavenward and shouted prayers. Others wailed and sobbed, the trauma still fresh in their troubled minds.

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