Beloved Brothers and Sisters,
- Since September 19, 1994, our country has been under a regime of foreign military intervention. This is no longer a plan, nor is it a dream. It is reality. Haiti is no longer a free and sovereign nation. It is under the guardianship of the international community.
- Certainly, in the past few decades, awareness of the interdependence among nations has developed to such an extent that, under the aegis of the international community, certain countries have taken it upon themselves to intervene in other countries as to defend human rights, in the name of what is called "the right to intervene". Why, in the case of Haiti, was foreign military intervention chosen as the last possible solution? Is it the best way to end the crisis? One force has replaced another. Because its presence and action relieve our suffering, make everyone respect the rights of all and mend the Haitian social fabric torn by divisions in the various sectors of society? By its presence and mode of action, will this force not risk reinforcing intolerance and intransigence? In the end, will one form of suffering not replace another?
- In the present situation, what should the pastoral orientation of the Church be, and what should be the responsibilities of the national and the international communities?
THE PASTORAL ORIENTATION OF THE CHURCH: TO PROMOTE RECONCILIATION
- The pastoral orientation of the Church is to promote the building of a RECONCILED and FRATERNAL HAITI. It therefore seems important to clarify the meaning and the conditions for TRUE RECONCILIATION in Haiti today.
THE CHRISTIAN MEANING OF RECONCILIATION
- Popular Haitian wisdom cites a Creole proverb that helps us understand what reconciliation is:
"Rekonsilyasyon pi bèl pase mariaj!"
"Reconciliation is more beautiful than marriage!"
In the Haitian mentality, indeed, reconciliation evokes the idea of joy, of happiness in welcoming another with good will, without ulterior motive, without a grudge or bitterness. Thus vision of reconciliation goes well with the Christian understanding of reconciliation as defined by Pope John Paul II: "A coming together of brothers disposed to overcome the temptation of selfishness and the thirst for vengeance: it is the fruit of strong, noble and generous sentiments"1).
CONDITIONS FOR TRUE RECONCILIATION
- The theme of reconciliation is a permanent message of the Haitian Catholic Bishops' Conference. Already in 1986, on that memorable day of February 7th*, the Haitian Bishops had launched an appeal for reconciliation to the people of Haiti. "The time has come for reconciliation and forgiveness, not for discord, division and hatred"2), they noted. That appeal was reiterated and confirmed by Pope John Paul II during his general audience on February 12, 1986, in these terms: "I make mine the words of the Haitian Bishops and I send warm greetings to the dear people of Haiti, asking the Lord to guide them on the way of peace, prosperity and national harmony"3).
Today we reaffirm the urgency of reconciliation for all and we insist once again on the need for certain indispensable conditions to achieve authentic reconciliation, as we expressed them in our message of February 7, 1986: "We must follow that route without deviating from truth, justice and love"4).
RECONCILIATION BASED ON THE TRUTH
- Reconciliation cannot exist without truth. "Indeed" says Pope John Paul II the Church promotes reconciliation in the truth, knowing well that neither reconciliation nor unity are possible outside the truth or in contradiction to the truth"5). Truth is "the virtue that consists in showing oneself true in deeds and truthful in words"; human beings "could not live with one another [without the] mutual confidence that they were being truthful to one another"6).
The fact is that life in Haiti, in its social, political and economic relationships, is woven of half-truths, untruths and lies. As a result, a tragic imbalance has developed in our society, and deception has become law. This was the case in the past, and is still unfortunately the case today. Some very serious threats are made against individuals. False accusations are sometimes leveled, simply out of vengeance.
The consequences of this situation are disastrous: people are killed by mistake, houses are stripped, property is destroyed, homes are violated: the rights to life, dignity, freedom and safety are flouted.
- As in all our previous messages, we forcefully denounce all such violations, whoever the perpetrators or the victims may be.
- Beloved Brothers and Sisters, as we requested on February 7, 1986. "we implore you, do not commit acts unworthy of the Christian name; respect property, and human lives, respect persons. They are in the image of God; do not kill anyone. Do not plunder and destroy. Such acts dishonor you and impoverish our country"7).
RECONCILIATION LINKED WITH JUSTICE
- We often hear reconciliation linked with justice, today, and with reason. But first of all, we want justice to be done. What exactly is meant by justice?
- For a great many people, the word "justice" in Haiti means "vengeance", "violence", "hatred". To do justice, in the opinion of many persons, means letting individuals take revenge on whoever did them wrong. To obtain justice, some do not use the normal means offered by the law, but those of violence inspired by hatred for others.
Is that justice not contrary to the one willed by God and defined by the Church?
According to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, "justice disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and the common good"8).
Justice can therefore not aim, as Pope John Paul II wrote, "to annihilate one's adversaries, limit their freedom or impose total dependency on them"…."Justice should tend to reestablish equality and balance between parties in conflict"9). Justice must blossom in peace and reconciliation.
- Unfortunately, what we hear in Haiti today is a clamor for a form of justice that most often resembles an outburst of vengeance and hatred. Slogans are launched to make known to the crowds the person one wants to take to the court of "popular justice". Such a person is declared guilty before being heard, and then condemned without appeal.
- We beseech you, Beloved Brothers and Sisters to end this inhuman practice of summary judgments, which is but a caricature or even a negation of justice. "Past and present experience," wrote Pope John Paul II, "shows that justice is not enough in itself, and that it can even lead to its own denial and ruin, if that deeper force of love is not allowed to fashion human life in its various dimensions"10).
RECONCILIATION ROOTED IN LOVE AND FORGIVENESS
- "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless these who curse you, pray for those who persecute you" (Lk 6:27-28).
What do these words of Jesus mean? "Love your enemies" means wanting the good of anyone who hates you, imploring God's blessing on one who opposes you and praying for whoever wants to harm you.
"Love your enemies" also means forgiving someone who wants to kill you, or the one who assassinated your brother, your father, your mother. Humanly speaking, this is a horrible and unacceptable idea; from a Christian viewpoint, Christ not only taught us forgiveness but also gave us the example. On the cross, He forgave His executioners: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing" Lk 23:34). Following Christ and His example, Pope John Paul II forgave the man who tried to kill him, Ali Agea, in his Roman prison cell.
Reconciliation is therefore difficult. However, we are convinced that human efforts, aided by grace can make reconciliation possible. That is why we invite you to pray to the Lord and ask Him for this grace for ourselves and all our brothers and sisters. "For nothing is impossible to God" (Lk 1:37).
RESPONSIBLILITY OF THE NATIONAL AND THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITIES
- The call to reconciliation based on truth, linked to justice and rooted in love and forgiveness constitutes an important dimension of the pastoral orientation of the Church in Haiti, in this crucial hour of our history. This call reflects the wishes of many other sectors of society as well.
- But what use would reconciliation be if it did not produce a willingness and an ability to live together, made concrete through a common endeavor? It is therefore important to establish open economic, social and political structures able to render effective the necessary reconciliation of all.
- That is why our message of reconciliation challenges the entire human community, both national and international. The leaders of nations and all those who have leadership roles in society are invited to become keenly aware of their responsibilities in three important areas of social life in Haiti:
- respect for human rights.
- technical and economic assistance.
- safety for all.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
- respect for human rights.
- There has been much insistence on respect for human rights as the major goal of the mission of representatives of various nations and organizations in Haiti, in the past weeks.
In a genuine effort towards national reconciliation, respect for rights will have to be extended to all our people wherever they live, in city or countryside, whatever their political, ideological or religious choices, and whatever their economic or social rank.
Respect for human rights also implies a restructuring of the judicial system. It likewise requires respect for the Constitution, and for national and international conventions, such as treaties, bilateral and multilateral accords.
TECHNICAL AND ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE
2. As regards technical and economic assistance, help for Haiti is extremely urgent, since three years of embargo have seriously deteriorated the environment and the quality of life. It is important to help Haitians help themselves in the priority areas of reforestation, agriculture, education, health, and economic and social development. We especially insist on the need to create jobs that will employ large numbers of workers. We ardently hope that programs set up for the reconstruction of Haiti, insofar as they favor the common good of the Haitian people, may be rapidly implemented.
We draw attention to the need for cooperation between the national and the international communities, with due respect for our dignity and our cultural and spiritual values. Pope John Paul II said it very clearly, in his January 1st, 1987, Message for the World Day of Peace: "It is not enough to extend a helping hand to those in need; we must help them discover the values that will enable them to build a new life and take their rightful place in society, with dignity and in justice"11).
SAFETY FOR ALL
- In the area of safety, we emphasize the urgent need for safety for our entire population, both in towns and in rural areas. Authorities meant to guarantee this safety must take charge of institutions and persons. In particular, we point out schools, universities, hospitals, homes for the elderly, religious and charity institutions, commercial enterprises and the persons and families covered by those institutions.
It is not enough to send a military force "to ensure safety, to promote democracy and human rights"; every effort must be made to establish in Haiti a JUST STATE, for "there is no true democracy without a Just State"12).
CALL TO REPAIR DAMAGES AND REBUILD THE COUNTRY
- We are all aware of the degradation of our values. It is also painful to see the state of dilapidation and disarray of our country, as regards its environment and its institutions. All this is undeniably the work of man. None can consider themselves innocent, for we bear collectively the historical burden of mismanagement. We can therefore not make an inventory of wrongdoings. On the contrary, we must establish individual and collective guilt, not only within the national community but also in the international community. This means we must take our responsibilities in solidarity with one another, so as to repair damages and rebuild the country.
- The magnitude of the task demands a firm and effective commitment, as much by individuals or groups of individuals, as by national and international institutions. It also requires the transformation of the Haitian person, as the fruit of true conversion of heart, mentality and state of soul. Finally, it requires us, in a gesture of transcendence, to accept to give one another a helping hand and, in a spirit of frank cooperation, to build a better future.
- May we, together, in spontaneous generosity and self-giving, become reconciled and join with one another in building a Haitian community that is stronger and has a greater sense of responsibility and solidarity.
- May the blessed day dawn, when "through the power of the Spirit", all Haitians may become a people united "in the Risen Christ in Whom all divisions are abolished"13).
May the grace of God, through the intercession of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, assist as in achieving this!
Given at the Seat of the Haitian Catholic Bishops' Conference [Conférence Épiscopale d'Haïti], on October 7, 1994, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
- Message of Pope John Paul II to the Bishops of Haiti. November 15, 1986 in Présence de l'Eglise en Haïti, p. 244.
- Prèsence de l'Église en Haiti: Messages et documents de l'Episcopat, 1980-1988, Paris, 1988, p. 164
- Ibid., p. 165
- Ibid., p. 163
- John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation On Penance and Reconciliation, No. 9.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 2468, 2469.
- Présence de l'Église en Haiti. Messages et documents de l'Épiscopat, 1980-1988, Paris, p. 163
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1807.
- John Paul II, Encyclical on Divine Mercy, No. 12,3.
- Présence de l'Église en Haiti. Messages et documents de l'Épiscopat, 1980, p. 262.
- Ibid., p. 197
- Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation 1.