By Jean H Charles
In last week’s op-ed, I related the engagement of the Catholic Church in shepherding the republic of Haiti into becoming a nation-state, democratic and hospitable to its entire people. I was privileged to attend the deliberations. It is the first time maybe since the year 313 in the Edict of Milan where Emperor Constantine newly converted to the Christian Church through the influence of his mother Helena that the business of the state and the involvement of the faith have been intermingling so well for the good and the welfare of a targeted population.
Albeit a fervent Catholic; I am a frequent critic of the church for its culture of incubating failed state nations. I have been observing that most failed nations in this universe have strong Catholic roots (Central Republic of Africa in Africa, Philippines in South East Asia, Haiti in the Caribbean). The countries with strong Muslim traditions do the same trophy of mother of failed states: (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia).
If it is true that Jesus warned the Jews that he did not come to help them to be delivered from the yoke of the Roman Empire, yet, he did accomplish a miracle in feeding the hungry crowd with bread and fish at the end of one of his sermons.
The Catholic Church has been the first entity to engage in nation building with Haiti upon its breaking the chain of slavery. The Vatican negotiated a Concordat with the Republic of Haiti to send priests, Christian brothers and sisters to educate and evangelize the Haitian population. The clergy from Brittany produced a Haitian middle class that has been decimated through exile by dictators and successive predatory governments in Haiti’s recent past.
The indigenous clergy negotiated by Francois Duvalier and the Vatican engaged in national politics but it was not for the good of Haiti. One of the priests became president, and Haiti has not been the same since. Social dissent has permeated all the fibers of the nation up to a point where reconciliation, hospitality and collegiality is alien to the ordinary citizen.
I have sent a proposal of engagement to the hierarchy of the church suggesting that the spine of the country is rooted in the Catholic Church, voodoo and the Haitian army. The army does not exist anymore, voodoo is still undercover, and the Catholic Church is the only entity that could provide a redemptory serum for the very survival of the nation. I was worrying that my letter went to deaf ears.
Lo and behold, the Episcopal Council of the Catholic Church was looking for the means and the tools to become the mediator in helping the government, the political parties and the Parliament to sit down at the same table to settle all the conflicts that they have amongst themselves and build the foundation for a prosperous and democratic Haiti.
The deliberations started at the beautifully renovated Hotel El Rancho. They will last for 15 days, every day from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm with copious lunch and all arrangements provided by the Catholic Church. The sessions are presided over his Eminence Cardinal Chibly Langlois, 55, newly appointed Prince of the Church by Pope Francis I. In spite of spicy and hot discussion, the atmosphere is convivial, the passion is intense but collegiality is the rule strictly enforced by the cardinal’s two acolytes, Monsignor Patrick Aris, Father Jean Desinord and the rapporteur Dr Ricardo Augustin.
The themes of the conference revolved around three topics: governance, elections and the constitution. While the first sessions are centered on conjectural issues, future debate will go much deeper into structural issues that go into why Haiti has become and remained a failed state since its independence from France.
Some 40 political parties, along with delegates from government, the Parliament and civil society are engaging in the debate whether the present Haitian government should become a government of consensus, or a government that invites opposing parties to send candidates to become ministers of the new government. The consensus has been found around the formula that the present Martelly government, duly elected, cannot be forced to enter into a contractual power sharing agreement. It is though preferable to dilute the present political crisis that so called political prisoners are liberated with caution, that the administration of the newly board of the judicial system be revamped and guaranties be given that the elections will be fair, just and equitable.
The deliberations were kept strictly amongst Haitians. A member of the MINUSTHA that insinuated herself without proper accreditation was ejected from the assembly; the issue of sovereignty was high on the agenda. It produced emotional debates about the occupation of Haiti, a republic proud of its rebel nature, being the first black independent country in the world. I reminded the audience that the concept of sovereignty is not a hollow principle. It must follow the three ingredients prescribed by Ernest Renan to become a fully independent nation. It includes a strong army that teaches the virtues of the glorious past and infuses the sense of a shared future, the rooting of the citizens in their communities with sensible institutions and adequate infrastructure as well as affirmative action for those left behind.
With the Catholic Church strongly holding the hands of the republic of Haiti, things will not be the same in the country, the culture of making believe that Haiti cares for its poor, wretched and isolated citizens in the rural areas will have to stop. The commitment of the church is strong and determined. It was expressed in the visit of the entire council of bishops attending one of the issues to indicate that they are all in support of the cardinal in his role as mediator.
Good days are ahead for Haiti. Hopefully Haiti is the first in the long list of Catholic countries that need the support of the church to evolve from failed nations to become democratic, rich and peaceful nations.