A Dominican Republic immigration officer opens a truck carrying Haitian immigrants A Dominican Republic immigration officer opens a truck carrying Haitian immigrants  (AFP or licensors)

Haitian Bishops’ Christmas message urges gangs to end violence

As Haiti continues to endure political, economic, social and humanitarian turmoil, Haitian Bishops issue a Christmas message calling on armed gangs to immediately end violence and on local authorities to rebuild civil institutions for a better future in the country.

By Lisa Zengarini

In a Christmas message closing its recent general assembly, the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Haiti (CEH), has again urged criminal gangs to stop their “murderous madness of hatred and of contempt for life”, while calling on the local civil authorities to restore the rule of law in order to guarantee a better future for the new generations.

A  multi-layer crisis

This is not the first time that the Haitian bishops have raised the alarm decrying the political, economic, social and humanitarian turmoil in the island nation that continues to breed gang crime.

Haiti, one of the poorest nations in the world, has been contending with an economy in freefall, political instability, and a rising insecurity for years. 

The situation has further deteriorated since the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, on 7 July 2021, and the new devastating earthquake that followed in August that year.

Since then, gang-related killings, turf wars, extortions and kidnappings, have increased even more, also targeting the Catholic Church, an institution that has long been a pillar of Haitian society, with several religious kidnapped for ransom.

In recent months, the country has also seen a resurgence of cholera, resulting from limited access to healthcare and essential services, including water, food, sanitation, and supply services.

Need to invest in peace and security

In their message, the Haitian bishops urgently call upon the gangs to abandon "the diabolical and perverse logic of weapons which is the farthest from the will of God!"

"Instead of fratricidal war," they say, "we must invest in peace and love, in the reorganization of our infrastructure, health and education systems, as well as the change of our mentalities.”

The message further stresses the need to rebuild civil institutions, especially the judicial system, “to curb the culture of impunity which is the logical cause of the perpetuation of corruption and violence in the country, in order to guarantee a better future for future generations.”

The bishops also point to the urgent need to provide effective support to the National Police to help fight the scourge of crime and create a climate conducive to the normalization of living consitions  in the country.

“The re-establishment of a security climate in the country remains one of the necessary conditions for the resumption of economic, cultural and social activities and the organization of democratic and transparent elections.”

Forced migration of Haitians

They further draw attention to fact that the “unbearable situation“ the nation is enduring is forcing a growing number of Haitians to seek refuge in other countries where, they note, “they are not always welcome”.

These include the neighbouring Dominican Republic, where illegal Haitian immigrants are often ruthlessly deported to Haiti by local police forces, or are being exploited in sugar cane plantations and forced to live in inhumane conditions that violate their basic human rights.   

The Haitian bishops are currently discussing the issue with their Dominican counterparts. In the message, they encourage the authorities of both countries to make a “gesture of appeasement" so as to ease the current tensions in their migratory relations.

Hopes for the new year

As Christmas approches, the bishops therefore call on all Haitians to practice “the values of mutual respect, justice, harmony, fraternity solidarity” which can help to build “the new Haiti everybody yearns for.”

Concluding, Haiti's bishops express hope that Christmas and the New Year may bring justice, peace and respect for life in the country.

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19 December 2022, 15:14