By Jean H Charles
My former pastor, Father Alphonse Quennel, now Bishop Kennel, might have been elevated to that rank because of his special skills in organization. I participated this weekend in a Good Friday procession organized by Bishop Quesnel that may have drawn a least half a million people in this Lord’s Day of Good Friday.
Haiti, since the earthquake of January 12, 2010, has been experiencing a religious revival that is unusual. It seems the people have felt they are to be closer to God so as to survive the many perils that life wrought while sojourning on this earth.
A deeply Catholic country, it was not difficult for the people to respond en masse to the call of the Archdiocese of Port au Prince for a public demonstration on the day commemorating when Jesus the Christ was crucified to redeem man from his original sin. Mostly women in embroidered white dresses, they came from all parts of the capital to pray and to chant while making the journey of Calvary in its 14 stations that brought the crowd all over the city.
Bishop Quennel has been given a special task by the archbishop to look into a ministry for the prisoners. As usual, he undertakes his task with gusto and creativity. He organized the prisoners to build small wooden crosses that are sold to the public. He also had them paint the different scenes of the crucifixion. The revenue was turned back to them in the form of necessary sundries (soap, toothpaste and others) to be used in the prison.
Pope Francis can with confidence call on Bishop Quennel to go into different parts of this world where souls need to be healed for solace and consolation. Haiti in its redemptory mission will be pleased to share this organizer cum pastor who knows how to touch the spirit of the afflicted of this earth.
Good Friday is celebrated with a special flair in the Catholic countries such as Spain, Mexico, Philippines and even India, where people accept to be flagellated and crucified to atone for their sins. In Haiti it is a strict religious celebration where wearing white is the common style and eating salt fish with beets is the custom.
To ensure there are two sides to the coin, we find also in Haiti the Rara celebration (rural carnival) that culminates in frenzy on Good Friday. There, the revelers dance and sing because God is dead. In the Rara mythology, God and the government represent evilness because both of them have left them in complete misery in desperation in a land that produces less and less.
Luckily God is resuscitated, and man, in spite of the wretchedness of life, can hope for a better tomorrow. A better tomorrow is what Haiti is expecting, where a national dialogue stewarded by the Catholic Church stands in a limbo situation because of the intransigence of a group of senators who refuse to vote for the electoral law that would open the doors to new elections.
Haiti has not known a life of normality for the past 60 years. There was dictatorship followed by militarism and illiberal democracy, where playing the game of politics prevailed over the welfare of citizens. As such, the Good Friday procession that starts in front of the razed national palace and goes along the corridor of the projects for the rebuilding of the destroyed ministry offices has some resonance in the hearts and the souls of each of the persons taking part in the Good Friday procession.
It seems they are all praying for Easter or a revival of a life in peace, in prosperity and in conviviality. In spite of having a democratically elected government, the losing party is playing a sour loser, putting roadblocks in the way of the president. PetroCaribe, the main lifeline of the government, is having its own hard time, because the losing party in Venezuela is also giving hard time to the actual government.
As such, Haiti is closing some of the buildings under construction. The government has just revealed that the national reserve is at its lowest and tight spending will be in the works over an unemployment level that borders 75%.
Luckily, as I have predicted since April 1, the rain has been constant and strong every night. The farmers can again plant the seeds hoping for a harvest in September. On the other side, the ecology in Haiti is so fragile that constant rain might cause inundation and destruction.
Haiti needs all the prayers it can formulate so Easter might come earlier and the life of the citizens might return to some normalcy -- a situation they have been seeking for two generations!
Related article: Easter in Haiti
Pictures of the crowd of some half million following the cross on Good Friday in Haiti. Photos: Jean Charles