The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
The Latin American Episcopal Conference
The United States Catholic Conference
September 12, 1994
In recent weeks, the Bishops of Haiti have issued urgent appeals on behalf of their people and their nation. The people are dying, the Bishops say, and the country is on the brink of ruin. Still more, they now face the threat of foreign military intervention which will add to the suffering and cause further erosion in Haiti's prized national sovereignty.
As representatives of the Church in neighboring countries, we are not persuaded that the use of foreign military force to restore democracy in Haiti is, at present, morally justified or likely to establish genuine democracy for the Haitian people. Nor do we believe that further tightening and extending the economic sanctions are likely to bring about the desired political change anytime soon. The sanctions have been and continue to be a source of ever greater suffering for the poor and increased profiteering for others.
Is the solution then for the international community to simply forget about Haiti and allow an illegal and immoral status quo to continue? On the contrary, the rest of the world, and in a special way the other nations of this hemisphere, bear a continued responsibility to uphold the fundamental principles enshrined in international covenants and our own constitutions. The illegality of the coup regime, the continued violations of human rights, intimidation of opponents and the threats to religious liberty before and after the coup, the shameless murder of priests, the unending plight of the many who still risk life and limb to flee Haiti, all continue to demand a response from the family of nations.
The Bishops of Haiti have called upon all the protagonists of the present crisis to come together in courageous and frank dialogue, to make a bold effort--as did the South Africans, as did the Israelis and Palestinians--"to save this country from disaster, destruction and death." It is time for all parties to move beyond their own political and economic interests for the common good of Haiti, to commit themselves to full respect for human rights, to accept the responsibility and restraints of democratic principles, and to seek to end the suffering of the poor and vulnerable in Haiti.
Some will say it is too late for that, or that it has been tried and failed. But it can never be too late when the survival of human beings, and the nation itself, is at stake. And the kind of comprehensive dialogue that the bishops propose goes well beyond what was attempted at Governors Island last year. Not only in South Africa and the Middle East, but here in the Central American peace process of recent years there is a model for a non-violent political solution that Haiti desperately needs.
The goal, surely, must be more than simply restoring the elected president to office. Establishing democratic processes, securing justice, promoting the rule of law, and stimulating economic growth, are all essential if Haiti is to be pulled from the edge of disaster. The common good requires that all sectors set themselves on the difficult path that leads to national reconciliation.
New initiatives are needed, including the possibility of a national commission on peace and reconciliation, similar to those of the Central American peace process, charged with the urgent task of convening leaders of all the major institutions and sectors of Haitian society, engaging them in the frank and sincere dialogue that alone can build the trust needed to heal that wounded society. We believe such an initiative would find wide support from religious groups and others throughout the hemisphere.
With our brother Bishops of Haiti, we offer our prayers and solidarity for all the people of Haiti, especially to those who have suffered most from the present crisis, the very poorest of the poor. May Our Lady of Perpetual Help give renewed strength to all, and the courage to find anew the path to peace and reconciliation.
Most Reverend Jean-Guy Hamelin
President, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
His Eminence Cardinal Nicolαs de Jesus Lσpez Rodriguez
President, Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM)
Most Reverend William H. Keeler
President, United States Catholic Conference