PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (CNS)—Religious orders working in Haiti have called on the international community to intervene directly to combat the reign of terror by armed gangs, which they have called “evil, frightening and unacceptable.”
The same gangs are responsible for nearly four kidnappings a day in 2022 and violence that has killed more than 200 people and forced 3,000 to flee their homes in July alone.
In an August 4 open letter to Najat Maalla M’jid, United Nations special rapporteur on violence against children, the Justice Coalition of Religious, made up of 20 religious orders, urged the international community “to respond quickly and effectively to the atrocities committed in Haiti.”
The Justice Coalition of Religious urged the international community “to respond quickly and effectively to the atrocities committed in Haiti.”
In a testimony document released by the coalition, passionate father Rick Frechette, a doctor in Port-au-Prince, said “99% of the people on the streets want a foreign military force to save them.” He described the situation on the streets of Port-au-Prince as “Somali-style battles”.
The coalition’s letter noted that “the Haitian state has failed in its sovereign obligation to protect the people.” He departed 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, allow police to fight against violent crimes and create a climate of serenity and peace”. confidence.” The bishops’ message stopped short of calling the international community to action.
“99% of the people on the street want a foreign military force to save them.”
The calls from bishops and clerics came after a month of violence in Port-au-Prince in which a 10-day battle between two armed gangs in the populated slum of Cité Soleil killed 209 people and forced 3,000 to flee their homes. houses. On July 24, a police inspector was killed in front of the congregation during a Sunday service in a Protestant church in Croix-des-Bouquets, bringing to more than 30 the number of police officers killed in 2022.
On July 27, the Catholic cathedral in Port-au-Prince was set on fire during a turf war between two gangs; Firefighters managed to put out the fire before it did much damage.
The gangs were also responsible for arson attacks on courthouses in Port-au-Prince and Croix-des-Bouquets; files and exhibits were burned.
Father Fréchette said he had spent the last two weeks “on my stomach in Cité Soleil and at the burnt cathedral”.
A month ago, a 10-day battle between two armed gangs killed 209 people and forced 3,000 others to flee their homes.
“It is quite obvious that there is no state,” he wrote. The priest said there was “a civil war in the guise of gang wars” and wrote that the gangs were “sponsored by politicians, the government and other actors”.
The Justice Coalition of Religious described the July 16 UN Security Council’s unanimous vote to extend the mandate of a small UN political mission in the country as “a far cry from what Haiti needs in the world.” UN to improve the protection of the lives and human rights of Haitians”. He called a vote to ban small arms sales to Haiti “insufficient.”
The coalition’s calls were echoed in an Aug. 6 Washington Post op-ed that called for “tough international intervention” and described the much-clamored “Haiti-led solution” as a pipe dream.
“It is quite obvious that there is no state.”
The situation has weighed on the activities of religious orders in Haiti. The Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, working near Croix-des-Bouquets, reported that due to the violence they had lost $250,000 in funding for new projects that would have protected women and children and reduces child trafficking; investors deemed the situation too risky.
“When you leave your home, you take your life in your hands and carry a coffin on your shoulder,” said one team member, describing 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 your home, you take your life into your own hands and carry a coffin on your shoulder.”
The Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth reported that the principal of the school run by the order was recently kidnapped by a gang. The principal, known as Pastor Cesar, was released when one of the kidnappers, a former student at the school, recognized him and told others that the pastor was doing a lot of good in the community. The pastor, who lives in Croix-des-Bouquets, fears being kidnapped again.
The same school offers a free medical clinic for children and local residents, but the doctor no longer comes to the school because he fears being kidnapped and held for ransom. The doctor now sees patients on Zoom when there is electricity, and the resident nurse on school grounds distributes prescribed medications.
“Almost all Haitians are asking why the international community is not coming to their aid,” the Justice Coalition of Religious wrote in the open letter. “We implore you to listen to the cry of the people of Haiti”, expressed in the testimonies sent by some religious working in this country.