“Haiti’s a mess. The people are suffering. This has to stop!”
This blunt declaration of outrage from New York Congressman Gregory Meeks is summarily reflective of the ongoing cycle of violence, political unsurety, and social unrest that has had the country of Haiti in its grips for the past several years.
Most recently, Haitian rights activists, a former American ambassador to the country and civil society groups recently testified to the House Foreign Relations Committee, calling on the United States to drop its support for Haiti’s president Jovenel Moise’s plan to hold a constitutional referendum next month without support from key Haitian institutions, at a time of rising violence and kidnappings.
Civil society and faith leaders have not given up on their hopes and work of building a just and democratic Haiti, however. In Northeast Haiti, Organisation Peuple Œcuménique pour le Développement du Nord-Est (OPODNE), a faith-based community organizing group led by Faith in Action International, continues to bring people together to organize their communities and create cooperatives.
Through a series of calls, organizers and leaders with Faith in Action, the nation’s largest grassroots faith-based organization and the parent organization of Faith in Action International, have developed a set of specific recommendations to establish “A Way Forward In Haiti,” a strategy for fundamentally changing U.S. policy toward Haiti. The policy focuses on four tenets: free, fair, and inclusive national and municipal elections; anti-impunity and corruption and respect for human rights; investment in community-led development; and support for small-scale farmers to control their land and adapt to climate change.
In the United States, Faith in Action and other organizations working with Haitian diaspora communities have been putting pressure on the Biden Administration to change U.S. policy toward Haiti and end support for President Moise. More than 1,600 people have sent emails directly to Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling for the U.S. to support a transition to democracy in Haiti. And Haitian faith leaders and their allies have been meeting with their members of Congress to discuss both a path to citizenship for Haitian TPS holders and a new policy approach to Haiti.
As faith leaders, we do not take our roles lightly when it comes to providing resources and guidance to communities that need it most. Haiti is a country that has had to bear more than its share of pain, but out of that are opportunities for prosperity, good leadership, and economic stability.
Maria Revelles is a consultant with Faith in Action International. Francois Pierre-Louis PhD. is Haiti Director of Faith in Action International. Florcie Tyrell is Director of OPODNE, which is affiliated with Faith in Action International. For more information, visit www.faithinactioninternational.org.