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Washington DC, 2 March 2010 – Jesuits in Haiti, under the leadership of Fr. Kawas Francois, S.J. have organized a Reflection and Action Unit (see official statement below) to help plan for the long-term rebuilding of Haiti while ensuring that the voices of the Haitian people are involved in that planning. Concerns have been raised on the ground in Haiti that too much of the planning leadership has been from concerned foreigners, and not enough from the people of Haiti and their leaders in civil society.

JRS and the Jesuit response team in Haiti has been using the Novitiate in Tabarre, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, as a headquarters for their work. They have started to prepare the land opposite the novitiate in Tabarre, with a view to setting up tents that will soon house the National Office of Fe y Alegria and of JRS – Haiti.

Fe y Alegria and JRS are beginning to work daily in seven camps for displaced people in Port-au-Prince. Contacts will soon be made with the Ministry of the Interior and the upper level leadership of the UN in Port-au-Prince with regard to making the work of the Jesuits in the camps more efficient.

“The Reflection and Action Group continues its work on the grounds of the Missionary Sisters of Christ the King, next to the Jesuit novitiate. More than one hundred people met again this recently to reflect on the experience of reconstruction in Mexico after the earthquake there in 1985 and on the experience of Rwanda after the genocide in 1994,” said Fr. Francois. “Two experts spoke: a Mexican, Cuauhtemoc Abaraca, and a Haitian-American, Dr. Joel Charles. Their experiences were most illuminating for the rest of us who are looking for ways to manage the aftermath of the catastrophe of January 12.”

The Official “Reflection and Action” Statement of the Jesuits Tabarre, Novitiate of the Jesuits in Haiti

The January 12, 2010 earthquake is the most serious catastrophe Haiti has known since it has existed as a nation: the destruction of Léogane, Gressier, Port-au-Prince, the National Palace and the central government, considerable damage to Jacmel, Grand-Gôave and Petit-Gôave, thousands of deaths and people left homeless, the total dislocation of major institutions, the threat of epidemics and the sociopolitical crises are without precedent.

The entire world has come running to Haiti’s aid! Everything seems to indicate that, this time the measures have been put in place for the reconstruction of the country, and, with the help of judicious choices, will launch the country on the path to development.

Together with organizations of civil society, the Reflection and Action Unit, an inclusive yet non-partisan initiative started and coordinated by the Society of Jesus, has said that serious reflection on the national question in general and the drama of the 12th of January in particular is taking place in institutions both inside and outside the country.

The “Reflection and Action Unit” sounds the alarm that these efforts need to be taken into account and told policymakers that timely opportunities may be lost if appropriate methodologies are not used.

From the first moments of drama, Haitians from all social classes have shown solidarity, perseverance, a fighting spirit and extraordinary heroism! With empty hands and open emotion they have begun to save lives!

The government and the armed forces present in the country, equally bereaved, were caught off guard and did not begin to truly react until three days after the catastrophe.

Some areas even mention a total lack of leadership of central state power in the management of the drama.

They submit as evidence:

  • Failure to coordinate international aid
  • The poor organization of temporary housing
  • The anarchic distribution of aid
  • The lack of communication on the efforts to reopen schools in the hardest-hit areas
  • Failure to release information about what is fact, what is happening, and current and future projects and plans
  • The impression that the international community works in an undefined space and utter cacophony

The Haitian state has failed to, or was not able to in these times of profound misery and disarray of the Haitian people, coordinate the actions of those from diverse backgrounds. By way of consequence, a Haiti in ruins has become a land of geopolitical and ideological battles.

Notably, the thoughts and decisions for the reconstruction of the country are taking place in “clusters” of English-speaking foreigners with Haitian nationals having very minimal participation.

In this context, the Reflection and Action Unit invites

A. The government to:

  • Assume the rightful leadership.
  • Promote leadership concerned with reorganizing the state in a dynamic that brings together the forces of the people and organizes them with the international stakeholders.
  • Coordinate, harmonize and guide strategic actions aimed at tackling the crisis across the whole territory.
  • Call upon all available Haitian and foreign efforts to do their share to help in the national struggle for the survival of the country.

B. The international community to:

  • Recognize and respect the efforts of Haitian organizations that reflect upon the options to take for the recovery of the nation and the reconstruction of the country instead of trying to replace them.

C. Civil Society to:

  • Organize itself and set in motion a broad national movement that will continue to struggle against adversity, to reflect and create new proposals for what is needed by Haiti.
  • To that end, the “Reflection and Action Unit” offers the people and the national civil society a space to meet, exchange ideas and reflect for the purpose of coming up with a new social plan for Haiti.

Coordinators of the Reflection and Action Unit are:

Rev. Kawas François, S.J. delegate of the Provincial of the Jesuits of French Canada and Haiti

Prof. Amary Joseph Noel, general coordinator of the Confederation of Haitians for Reconciliation

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