Help And Hope For Haiti: An Interview with Fr. Joseph Philippe

Help And Hope For Haiti: An Interview with Fr. Joseph Philippe

Haiti is one of the most important nations in world history because it was the first to defeat the French Empire under Napoleon, the first group of enslaved Africans to free themselves from slavery, and inspired the world to advocate for the end of the transatlantic slave trade.

But Haiti has suffered greatly from economic oppression, political corruption, and most of all natural disasters especially in recent years. In the Summer of 2021 Haiti experienced the assassination of their president, one of the largest earthquakes on record, and another hurricane all which devastated the people of the country.

But there is hope and help for Haiti. One of the people doing tremendous work not only in the aftermath of natural disasters, but daily, is Father Joseph Philippe. UrbanFaith sat down with this incredible man who has founded and led multiple organizations that are building up Haiti to talk about the needs today and his ongoing work to transform his home country. Full interview is above, information on how to support his organizations and Haiti relief are below.

Fr. Joseph Philippe is a Haitian born Catholic priest who has founded multiple organizations over 35 years that are dedicated to building up Haiti for the long term. The Association of the Peasants of Fondwa (APF), empowers Haitian peasants and farmers at the grassroots level and creates Local Development Committees which help them to build up their community, maintain their natural resources, and organize together to build their local economy. Fonkoze is a microfinance bank that is dedicated to helping Haitians lift themselves out of poverty and has impacted thousands of families and millions of people over its existence. Sisters of Saint Anthony of Fondwa is a nuns organization that helps support the community of Fondwa, and University of Fondwa is a fully functional university which provides college and vocational education to students across Haiti with a goal of building up the 572 communities that make up Haiti over time. The websites are apfhaiti.org, fonkoze.org, and ufondwa.org.

For short term relief:

People can make their check at the order of APF ( Asosyasyon Peyizan Fondwa) and mail it for us to:

Industrial  Bank

C/O Sabrina Brice

382 125th St.

New York, NY 10027

This money is going to be used for

1)Temporary job (Cash for work)

2) Housing (repair and rebuilding)

3) Access to basic Health care

4) Access to water ( assessment, basic needs, replacement of destroyed water tank and repair)

SLAIN HAITIAN PRESIDENT FACED CALLS FOR RESIGNATION, SUSTAINED MASS PROTESTS BEFORE KILLING

SLAIN HAITIAN PRESIDENT FACED CALLS FOR RESIGNATION, SUSTAINED MASS PROTESTS BEFORE KILLING

Presidential guards patrol the entrance to the residence of late Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on July 7, 2021. Moïse was assassinated there early that morning. AP Photo/Joseph Odelyn
Tamanisha John, Florida International University

Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in the early morning hours of July 7, 2021, in a brazen attack on his private home outside Port-au-Prince, the capital.

Moïse’s wife was also shot in the assault that killed her husband. The assailants have not been identified, and Haiti’s prime minister reports he is running the country.

Moïse’s assassination ended a four-and-a-half-year presidency that plunged the already troubled nation deeper into crisis.

A political novice

Jovenel Moïse, 53, was born in 1968, meaning that he grew up under the Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti. Like most Haitians today, he lived through turbulent times – not only dictators but also coups and widespread violence, including political assassinations.

Moïse, a businessman turned president, made his way into politics using political connections that stemmed from the business world. Initially he invested in automobile-related businesses, primarily in the north of Haiti, where he was born. Eventually, he ultimately landed in the agricultural sector – a big piece of the economy in Haiti, where many people farm.

Valerie Baeriswyl / AFP via Getty Images
The late Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in November 2019. Jovenel at a podium with men sitting behind him

In 2014, Moïse’s agricultural finance company Agritrans launched an organic banana plantation, in part with state loans. Its creation displaced hundreds of peasant farmers, who received minimal compensation.

But the business brought Moïse prominence. It was as a famed banana exporter that Moïse met then-Haitian President Michel Martelly in 2014. Though he had no political experience, Moïse became Martelly’s hand-picked successor in Haiti’s next election.

Martelly was deeply unpopular by the end of his term, but party leaders assumed that Moïse would be more welcomed given his relatable background in farming.

A divisive and unstable presidency

Instead, Moïse barely eked out a win in a November 2016 election that fewer than 12% of Haitians voted in. His meager electoral victory came after two years of delayed votes and confirmed electoral fraud by Martelly’s government.

In 2017, Moïse’s first year in office, the Haitian Senate issued a report accusing him of embezzling at least US$700,000 of public money from an infrastructure development fund called PetroCaribe to his banana business.

Protesters flooded into the streets crying “Kot Kòb Petwo Karibe a?” – “where is the PetroCaribe money?”

Protests signs seen laying on the ground, saying 'Jovenel must go' in English and Creole
Protest signs in Port-au-Prince in March 2021 before a protest to denounce Moïse’s efforts to stay in office past his term. Valerie Baeriswyl/AFP via Getty Images

Lacking the trust of the Haitian people, Moïse relied on hard power to remain in office.

He created a kind of police state in Haiti, reviving the national army two decades after it was disbanded and creating a domestic intelligence agency with surveillance powers.

Since early last year, Moïse had been ruling by decree. He effectively shuttered the Haitian legislature by refusing to hold parliamentary elections scheduled for January 2020 and summarily dismissed all of the country’s elected mayors in July 2020, when their terms expired.

Sustained protests – over gas shortages and blackouts, fiscal austerity that has caused rapid inflation and deteriorating living conditions, and gang attacks that have killed several hundred, among other issues – were a hallmark of Moïse’s tenure.

Existing street protests exploded in early 2021 after Moïse refused to hold a presidential election and step down when his four-year term ended in Feburary. Instead, he claimed his term would end one year later, in February 2022, because Haiti’s 2016 election was postponed.

Before his death, Moïse planned to change the Haitian Constitution to strengthen the powers of the presidency and prolong his administration.

Memories of a dictatorship

For months before his assassination, Haitian protesters had been demanding Moïse’s resignation.

For many Haitians, Moïse’s undemocratic power grabs recall the 30-year, U.S.-backed dictatorships of François Duvalier, known as “Papa Doc,” and his son, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier.

Black-and-white image of François Duvalier, in a suit, and his wife, in a dress, surrounded by watchful men
François Duvalier with bodyguards and his wife, Simone, after they voted in Haiti’s 1957 presidential election, in which Duvalier was a leading candidate. AFP via Getty Images

Both Papa Doc and Baby Doc relied on murdering and brutalizing Haitians to remain in power, with the unspoken approval of Western political interests in Haiti. Working with the Duvaliers, U.S. manufacturers in Haiti ensured that their investments were profitable by pushing for wages to remain low and working conditions to remain poor.

When mounting Haitian protests ended the regime in 1986, Baby Doc fled the country. The Duvaliers had enriched themselves, but Haiti was left in economic collapse and social ruin.

The 1987 Haitian Constitution that Moïse sought to change was written soon after to ensure that Haiti would never slide back into dictatorship.

Beyond Moïse’s use of state violence to suppress opposition, anti-Moïse protesters before his killing pointed out another similarity with the Duvalier era: the United States’ support.

In March, the U.S. State Department announced that it supported Moïse’s decision to remain in office until 2022, to give the crisis-stricken country time to “elect their leaders and restore Haiti’s democratic institutions.”

That stance – which echoes that of Western-dominated international organizations that hold substantial sway in Haiti, such as the Organization of American States – sustained what was left of Moïse’s legitimacy to remain president.

Crowd in the street under smoky skies hold up a sign with U.S., Canadian and other foreign flags
Protesters in Port-au-Prince in 2019 highlight the role of foreign governments in supporting President Jovenel Moïse, who was accused of corruption. CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images

Haitians unhappy with continued American support for their embattled president held numerous demonstrations outside the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince, while Haitian Americans in the U.S. protested outside the Haitian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

From its invasion and military occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934 to its support of the Duvalier regime, the U.S. has played a major role in destabilizing Haiti.

Ever since the devastating Haitian earthquake of 2010, international organizations like the United Nations and nonprofits like the American Red Cross have also had an outsize presence in the country.

Now, the unpopular president that foreign powers supported in hopes of achieving some measure of political stability in Haiti has been killed.

This story is a substantially updated and expanded version of an article, originally published on May 10, 2021.The Conversation

Tamanisha John, Ph.D. Candidate of International Relations, Florida International University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Haiti unrest strands a number of US church groups

Haiti unrest strands a number of US church groups

Volunteer groups from several U.S. states were stranded in Haiti this past Sunday after violent protests over fuel prices canceled flights and made roads unsafe.

Church groups in South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Alabama are among those that haven’t been able to leave, according to newspaper and television reports.

Some flights were resuming Sunday afternoon, according to airline officials and the flight tracking website FlightAware. American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein said in an email that two flights bound for Miami and one for New York had taken off Sunday afternoon.

But even getting to an airport could be risky, U.S. officials warned. The U.S. State Department issued an alert Sunday urging its citizens on the island to shelter in place and not to go to an airport unless travelers had confirmed their departing flight was taking off.

Dr. Salil Bhende, a North Carolina dentist, said in a phone interview that a group of about 16 dental clinic volunteers was supposed to fly out Sunday from Port Au Prince but couldn’t make it to the airport because the roads were unsafe. After encountering rubble and garbage in the road, the group turned back to a church about 45 minutes outside the capital city where it was staying. Airline officials told them they might not be able to get a flight home until Tuesday, Bhende said.

“There were a lot of blockages,” he told The Associated Press. “It was very difficult to get to the airport, so we just turned around, basically, to be safe.”

Another member of the group, Pastor Fred Stapleton of Cornerstone Covenant Church in western North Carolina, said the volunteers have plenty of food and feel safe in the church.

“Nobody here is afraid for their life, or anything like that,” he said. “The people have taken care of us. We’ve been kept in a safe place.”

Chapin United Methodist Church in South Carolina posted online Sunday that its mission team is safe but stranded. Marcy Kenny, assimilation minister for the church, told The State newspaper that the group is hoping the unrest will abate enough for them to make it to the airport.

“They’re just waiting for things to die down a little bit,” Kenny said.

About 30 volunteers from a Bradenton, Florida, church were unable to make it to the airport Saturday because of protesters blocking the streets, according to the Bradenton Herald.

The group from Woodland Community Church includes about 18 teens, plus ministers and a handful of parents, said Jill Kramer, whose 15-year-old daughter is on the trip. They tried to leave for the airport early Saturday morning but turned back after they encountered protesters.

Kramer, who spoke to her daughter by phone, said the group has food, water and safe shelter at the nonprofit group where they had been working.

“The mission team, the directors they all decided it just wasn’t worth it to go farther,” Kramer told the newspaper.

— Yonat Shimron

The Dominican Republic’s Ethnic Cleansing

The Dominican Republic’s Ethnic Cleansing

In less than 24 hours the Dominican Republic will begin what is euphemistically being called a “social cleaning.” In this process of state housekeeping, the government will deport over 100,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent in effort to tidy of their immigration rolls. The criteria for this is unjust and appalling, ranging from targeting those with Haitian-sounding names and dark-skin to picking out women who look like prostitutes and considering those to be among the number.

According to an aid worker whose account was published in The Nation, the following is occurring:

“…in the barrios, police trucks have come through to conduct limpiezas (“cleanings,” with the adjective implied: “social cleanings”): “The detained tend to range from intoxicated persons to suspected prostitutes, but are disproportionately Haitian or dark-skinned Dominicans with Haitian facial features. These could just be guys drinking and playing dominos or women standing on street corners. More often, though, they tend to be young men with Haitian features and darker skin. The police usually—usually—detain them for a night and then let them go with a warning.” But, he says, this stepped-up activity is preparation for June 16:

Given the common practice of nightly police sweeps, the government solicitation of passenger buses, the official declaration of intent to pass Law 169-14 without delay on June 16, and the general history of anti-Haitian abuses on the part of law enforcement and government authorities, it is reasonable to assume that the infrastructure is now in place for mass detention and deportation of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent from the Dominican Republic. The general attitude among this vulnerable subpopulation is a mix of fear and resignation.”

The majority of those in danger of being deported are migrant workers who own businesses in DR but there are also families, women, and children who are at risk of being deported to Haiti. Some media sources have referred to the threatened population as “Haitians” but this is a misnomer because the people actually have no connection to Haiti—some having never visited the country—and thus they are being deported to become strangers in a strange land where there aren’t even enough resources for an influx of citizens.

Many are currently scrambling to gain legal residency before today’s 7pm deadline, but they are doing so in the midst of volumes of paperwork and understaffed offices. Even if they are able to get through the paperwork and the lines there are criteria they must meet such as proving that they arrived before October 2011. This becomes particularly challenging for those born in rural towns under the care of midwives which, in many cases, means they weren’t issued birth certificates. Immediately this puts many at a disadvantage and increases the risk that they will be deported from the only home they’ve known. One has to wonder if these criteria weren’t purposely established to ensure that many wouldn’t be able to secure their residency before the deadline.

Unfortunately, the current situation in the Dominican Republic is nothing new. It is only making good on an approximately 78-year tension that has existed in the Dominican Republic. It started with the 1937 Parsley Massacre which was carried out by Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo who targeted Dominicans who were dark enough to be Haitian or who were unable to pronounce key words in Spanish. So what we are seeing today is a continuation of an old battle fueled by anti-Haitian sentiments. Discrimination is at the root of this and the “social cleansing,” which is actually more akin to ethnic cleansing, is the government trying to create some semblance of ethnic purity on the island.

Furthermore, this is not just a battle on the island but America has a role in this. In an interview in the Americas Quarterly, Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat said,

One thing that is not mentioned as often is that early in the 20th century (1915 to 1934 for Haiti, and 1916 to 1924 for the D.R.), the entire island was occupied by the United States. Then again, in the D.R. in the 1960s, Trujillo — who not only organized a massacre, but wiped out several generations of Dominican families — was trained during the occupation by U.S. Marines and put in power when they pulled out. Same with the Haitian army that terrorized Haitians for generations. It is not a matter of blame but a matter of historical record.

Thus the discrimination currently taking place is a strongly-rooted practice in not recognizing Dominicans of Haitian descent as full Dominicans.

According to sources, the government has procured 12 buses and opened processing centers at the border to expedite the process of deporting the Dominicans of Haitian descent.

So what can we do?

1. The Dominican Republic is a hot tourist destination for many black and brown people. Thus the first thing that any of us can do is ensure that our fellow brothers and sisters with plans to vacation in the region this summer cancel their trips immediately and boycott. We must choose our people’s freedom over our leisure and to continue to pump money into DR’s economy is to suggest that we don’t care about their lives.

2. Sign the petition to pressure the Dominican Republic government to stop the “cleaning” they have planned in the next few days.

3. Encourage the Human Rights Watch to become more vocal about this situation, particularly through their director, Ken Roth, a prolific social media user who hasn’t addressed the situation much–only one tweet of a NY Times story and the Human Rights Watch homepage has nothing about the situation on their homepage. Tweet the  @hrw (Human Rights Watch) : “Why are you ignoring Haitians in DR? Stop the exile!” Share the same tweet with both the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses. Call HRW, follow link http://m.hrw.org/contact-us

4. We can continue to complain about what mainstream news media isn’t covering or we can just cover it ourselves. Let’s stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Dominican Republic and remember that, we too, share in their struggle. Keep spreading this news on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to get the word out.

Story sources:

The Bloody Origins of the Dominican Republic’s ethnic “cleansing” of Haitians

Five Things to Know About the “Cleaning” of Haitians from the DR

Why You Should Boycott the Dominican Republic

We Regret to Inform You that in Four Days You and Your Family Will Be Deported to Haiti

The Dominican Republic and Haiti: A Shared View from the Diaspora

The Problem with Political Prophets

The Problem with Political Prophets

HIT OR MISS: CBN founder Pat Robertson keeps us guessing with his prophecies about politics and world events. (Photo: Olivier Douliery/Newscom)

“I think George Bush is going to win in a walk. I really believe I’m hearing from the Lord it’s going to be like a blowout election in 2004. The Lord has just blessed him…. It doesn’t make any difference what he does, good or bad.” — Pat Robertson, January 2, 2004

Once upon a time, Pat Robertson prophesied and things happened. He declared George W. Bush was God’s man for 2004. And everything was good for Pat and George on Election Day.

Score one for the prophet of a small media empire and for the president accused of building an empire (you be the judge on the latter).

In November 2007, Pat decided to turn tarot cards again. This time, the anointed one was Rudolph Giuliani.

For obvious reasons, this marriage made in heaven was a strange one. Pat hates divorce. Rudy (apparently) loves it. Pat decries abortion rights. Rudy pledges to uphold them. Nevertheless, Pat Robertson bequeathed the divine blessing to Rudy.

Pat’s rationale for this prophetic endorsement was different than the one for Bush. Giuliani is God’s man to protect Americans “from the blood lust of Islamic terrorists,” Pat averred.

That second time around, however, Pat-styled prophecy failed. In January 2008, after Giuliani performed poorly in the primary elections, Pat appeared on Hannity & Colmes doing a delicate dance of doubletalk — God had revealed to Pat who would win the eventual election (and since Rudy was out it wasn’t him), but he took a vow of silence as to the identity of the future winner.

Prophecy Pat-style always keeps you guessing. So was it any wonder when on January 4, 2012, Pat Robertson deigned to make a prediction concerning our next president? Apparently, God is uttering negative prophecies now, instead of affirmative ones.

So thanks to Pat, we now know that the next President will not be … Barack Obama! As for the identity of the victor, Robertson claims it’s for him and God to know and for us unenlightened earthlings to find out. Apparently this time around, God told Pat to keep his trap shut.

Pat Robertson’s predictions and prophetic interpretations of world events have become something of a painful joke in recent years. His claim that Hurricane Katrina represented God’s judgment on the United States for its tolerance of legalized abortion was dubious enough, but then his declaration that Haiti’s deadly earthquake in 2010 was the result of a curse on that nation for its “pact with the devil” was even more bewildering.

So what are we to make of Pat’s spotty record with political prophecies? Well, one thought occurs to me right off the bat: Don’t blame all Christians for the ill-advised behavior of one believer, even if that one happens to preside over a worldwide media conglomerate that reaches people in more than 100 countries. While it is true that for many of us theology and Scripture inform our views on a myriad of public policy, few of us deign to divine in the name of God the man or woman who would be king or queen.

At the same time, let’s cut Pat some slack — as an octogenarian, perhaps his hearing is getting bad. But let’s allow Scripture (yes, religion) to have the last word for those, like Pat, who invoke God’s name on behalf of a candidate: “… when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him” (Deuteronomy 18:22).

God is not silent. But hopefully, Pat’s presumptuous prophecies are. Be not afraid!