Haiti: Bishops deeply saddened by recent events and violence in the country

In a press statement received by the ACN Pontifical Charity yesterday, July 7, the Episcopal Conference of Haiti expressed its astonishment and condolences at the sad news of the assassination of Jovenel Moïse, president of the Republic, on the night of July 6-7 at his private residence.

During the attack, the president’s wife, Martine Moïse, was also shot. In the early hours of Wednesday morning she was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, USA, where she is currently in a critical but stable condition. In its statement, the conference condemns “this unacceptable and shocking murder and offers its deepest condolences to the parents and friends” of the victims. In the note, the conference also hoped for the recovery of the first lady.

“This sad event marks an unfortunate turning point in the history of our people,” the bishops of Haiti deplore. A turning point marked “by the deliberate choice of violence made, for some time, by many sectors of the population as a method of survival and dispute resolution.”

Daily Deaths and Kidnappings in the Capital

Violence in Haiti has increased dramatically in recent years. According to a report by the National Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace, received by ACN a few days ago, violence and crime in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince increased dramatically between January and March 2021. In the metropolitan area alone there were 131 violent deaths, of which 34 victims could not even be identified.

In its report, the Justice and Peace Commission remarked on a general feeling of fear among the population due to a lack of security, and indicating kidnappings were a real threat to the people of Port-au-Prince, with an average of one or two kidnappings per day, but as many as five or six on certain days.

Given the chaotic situation, the Catholic bishops recall that “Violence only feeds violence and can only lead to horror.” The country, which is at a “political impasse,” can only solve its problems “through dialogue and consensus.”  The Episcopal Conference of Haiti suggests the creation of a discussion table that includes everyone and asks the population to abandon weapons and choose life.

A woman in prayer before the Cross of the Cathedral still standing after Haiti was rocked by a devastating earthquake in 2010.
A woman in prayer before the Cross of the Cathedral still standing after Haiti was rocked
by a devastating earthquake in 2010.

Challenges of the Church, Promoter of Peace

For his part, Rafael D’Aquí, in charge of Haiti projects for ACN, expressed “deep sadness at the news. It is a sign of the total lack of stability that exists in the country. It is a great challenge for the Church, which has a key role as a promoter of peace. Haitian society needs to deepen the Gospel message of justice, reconciliation and forgiveness,” stated D’Aqui. 

Speaking of ACN’s work in Haiti, the project manager highlighted the support provided for many years “to this country deeply affected by poverty and social injustice.” “The creation of a leadership with a heart deeply rooted in faith is a fundamental pillar for the reconstruction of Haiti,” explained D’Aqui.

According to the Brazilian, who has visited the country twice on behalf of Aid to the Church in Need, the Haitian Church is facing a great challenge “to ensure a minimum of human dignity to the people, since the State is not fulfilling its role.”

Finally, he asks for prayers on behalf of the organization: “I acknowledge the great effort of the Church to give signs of hope to people in a situation of despair, after so many natural catastrophes and due to extreme poverty. We cannot leave them alone. Let us join the request of the Bishops and ask Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Patroness and Protector of Haiti, to help them and free Haiti from the bonds of hatred and evil.”

Learn more about the situation in Haiti in our Religious Freedom Report in the World – 2021

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