Jesuit Leader Describes Fear and Uncertainty in Haiti


BY ISN STAFF | March 5, 2019

Escalating volatility has left the Haitian people in a state of fear and uncertainty in recent months. Haiti experienced a nearly two-week lockdown earlier this month as the island nation struggles with a 50 percent devaluation of the local currency over the past six months and alleged corruption within the government of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse.

Fr. Jean Denis Saint-Felix, S.J., the Superior of the Jesuits of Haiti, described the situation in the following communique sent on February 13 to Jesuit leaders in Canada and Latin America, that was made public by the Jesuit Province of Canada. [Editor’s Note: The communique has been edited for context] —

As you know, the situation in the country – in which you were able to share during your stay – is becoming more and more explosive.

The population, left to its own devices, remained trapped in their homes for fear of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Everywhere, here in Port-au-Prince and in the cities of the provinces, there is fear and uncertainty. Daily demonstrations turn into scenes of violence and looting. Most gas pumps are vandalized, several businesses have been ransacked and looted, vehicles, especially those of the State Service (S.E.), are burned, as well as some public and private institutions. The police are literally overwhelmed by events. They let it happen at the risk of being victimized by the angry crowd. The authorities, the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister are completely silent, with great contempt from everyone.
I have great difficulty seeing how this government can continue because it is being criticized on all sides for its incompetence and its inability to react well and on time. We are calling for the pure and simple departure of the President of the Republic, Jovenel Moïse, as well as that of Prime Minister Jean Henry Céant. Parliament is also discredited. An end to the crisis is not for tomorrow, even with these departures or resignations. The options are not clear because the political opposition also has no credibility. Meanwhile, the people are desperate, it’s starting to last too long. The crisis is beginning to take on a particular form. For a people who live from day to day, it is impossible to hold on. We’re hungry and thirsty. 
On the Jesuit side: like the population, we remain trapped in the communities – caution is required. We are in constant communication. Father Perard, who had returned for the extended consultation, was unable to return to the North. I finally returned this morning from Tabarre where the seminar was to take place. The streets were scary and deserted, except that the barricades were still visible and tires were still burning.

Fr. Jean Denis Saint-Felix, S.J.

Fr. Jean Denis Saint-Félix, S.J. 

The delegates returned home – I admire their patience and calm – I left the last group, the Cubans, at the airport before returning. The delegation of the Dominican Republic (Max, Martin, Juan Ayala and Edward) are still within our walls because they had to turn back this morning because they could not cross the barricades of burning tires. They are currently at the Spirituality Center.  

The Bishops’ Conference (BHC) issued a note yesterday deploring the violence and calling for respect for human lives and property while urging the authorities to make sacrifices in the best interests of the nation.
For our part, we believe that this situation cannot and must no longer continue. Our future as a people is totally mortgaged. In recent days we have regressed enormously – the already fragile economy has taken huge blows. The loss of human lives and material assets is already enormous. Since February 7, fear and anguish have won the minds and hearts of many people. Faced with all this, the actors must assume their responsibilities and draw the consequences at this time of great suffering and pain. We also call for the solidarity of all so that the existence of our people and their destiny will not be forgotten.
We remain confident in the Lord of life, that He will give us the grace to discern the best ways to be present among his people so that hope can finally sprout on this earth.
Thank you for your continued solidarity, your prayer and for sharing this news with our friends and collaborators.

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