Tomorrow, January 12th, marks the five-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti, killing over 200,000 people and leveling much of the capital. So many people lost loved ones, neighbors, homes. A co-worker pointed out to me last Friday that some entire families were lost. There is also a mounting political crisis in Haiti that comes to a head tomorrow. Please be in prayer for this country this week.
In honor of this difficult anniversary, we'd like to offer a couple brief reflections and specific suggestions for ways you can pray for Haiti.
First, a short meditation. I think this is a very important way to frame our approach to the many challenges in Haiti. It also serves as a prayer request for us, specifically in our day-to-day policy and advocacy work, which is often focused on crises and injustices in Haiti.
"Surprised by Joy"
by Henri Nouwen
Are we surprised by joy or by sorrow? The world in which we live wants to surprise us by sorrow. Newspapers keep telling us about traffic accidents, murders, conflicts between individuals, groups, and nations, and the television fills our minds with images of hatred, violence and destruction. And we say to one another: "Did you hear that, did you see that... isn't it terrible...who can believe it?" Indeed it seems that the powers of darkness wants to continue to surprise us with human sorrow. But these surprises paralyze us and seduce us to an existence in which our main concern becomes survival in the midst of a sea of sorrows. By making us think about ourselves as survivors of a shipwreck, anxiously clinging to a piece of driftwood, we gradually accept the role of victims doomed by the cruel circumstances of our lives.
The great challenge of faith is to be surprised by joy. I remember sitting at a dinner table with friends discussing the economic depression of the country. We kept throwing out statistics that made us increasingly convinced that things could only get worse. Then, suddenly, the four-year-old son of one of my friends opened the door, ran to his father, and said, "Look, Daddy! Look! I found a little kitten in the yard...Look! ... Isn't it cute?" While showing the kitten to his father, the little boy stroked the kitten with his hands and held it against his face. All at once everything changed. The little boy and his kitten became the center of attention. These were smiles, strokes, and many tender words. We were surprised by joy!
God became a little child in the midst of a violent world. Are we surprised by joy or do we keep saying: "How nice and sweet, but the reality is different." What if the child reveals to us what is really real?
(Here and Now, Henri Nouwen, pgs 33-34, 1994)
The statistics are out there, and they are startling. High percentages of extreme poverty and income disparity in Haiti. But here we would like to share a couple of stories with you.
Our boss and the MCC Haiti country representative wrote a beautiful reflection, posted by mcc.org this week, in the form of a letter to his baby daughter. He shares about Haiti right after and 5-years after the earthquake, as well as his love for the country.
Ted and I wrote a blog post that was posted to MCC Ottawa Office site this week. It's a reflection on what we see as the direction of our work dealing with advocacy in Haiti, as being "bridge builders" across some of Haiti's social divides.
This January 12th also marks a crucial political juncture for the country. Much of the political stalemate from the past several months comes to a head, as we see whether U.S. influence, and negotiations among opposing parties in Haiti will have led to a solution to Haiti's pre-electoral crisis. Tomorrow, without a resolution, Haiti's legislative branch will become defunct as all remaining senators' terms expire. NPR offered brief coverage of the crisis just a couple of days ago: Haiti's political crisis expected to come to head next week.
For months, demonstrators have been crowding the streets of downtown in frustration over the president's administration. This week, more demonstrations are expected.
Here are specific ways you can pray for Haiti:
- Sincere commitment on behalf of Haiti's leaders to reach a peaceful consensus to this electoral crisis.
- Healing across social lines. Most Haitians feel very alienated by their government and the business-owning "elite." Fairly rigid social divides have been in place for centuries in Haiti. Pray for peace and reconciliation in this area.
- There are still 85,000 people lives in camps since the 2010 earthquake. They are vulnerable to poor sanitation, lack of drinking water, inclement weather, and even forced evictions by landowners and police. Pray the Haitian government will ensure their safety and come up with durable housing solutions for the very poor.
- Education is highly valued in Haiti, yet access to quality education is a challenge for most children. The adult literacy rate is 49%. Pray for greater, more widespread, educational opportunities for Haiti's poor.
- For the great work being done across the country to improve Haitian's access to preventative and curative medical services. Pray for greater access to these services in each part of Haiti.
- Food security. Environmental, economic, and climatic factors have made Haiti's agricultural sector unproductive. Pray for healing of the land and new abundance.