World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

Statement on Haiti

16 September 2005

WCC Executive Committee, Geneva, 13-16 September, 2005

The people of Haiti are presently passing through an extremely difficult period.

The poorest country in the Americas has experienced serious social and political
turmoil, which continues to have a huge impact on the lives of Haitians. The last
years of former President Aristide were characterized by violence, corruption,
impunity and chaos. In early 2004 a violent uprising forced Aristide into exile
and an interim government was established. This government has called for elections
in November 2005.

Despite the presence of the UN stabilization mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) violence
by armed gangs continues to be a threat to the population, particularly in
some areas of the capital, Port-au-Prince. Killings, rape, kidnapping and extortion
are common and are used as a weapon to instill fear and insecurity amongst
the people. In addition to the political instability, there is endemic poverty and
environmental degradation throughout the country.

History has been hard on Haiti which was in many ways born as a "promised
land". In 1804, a former slave led the independence movement in Haiti that
resulted in the creation of the first black-led republic and the first Caribbean state
to achieve independence. Throughout its history, Haiti has experienced invasion
by the United States, followed by 30 years of the Duvaliers' dictatorship, UN
sanctions after the coup d'état of 1991 and natural disasters including hurricanes
and earthquakes. Last year, severe floods left more than 2000 dead or unaccounted
for and over 200,000 Haitians homeless.

Despite this apparently hopeless situation, churches have actively engaged in the
struggle for peace and justice, especially in recent years. Churches have issued
messages to denounce the situation of 2003 and to call the Haitian people to reconcile.

These messages have greeted the courage and determination of the Haitian
people and their refusal to be governed by arbitrary means, abuse of human rights
and ongoing impunity. They stressed the need for Haitians to learn to live together
in peace and harmony. To help in the process of reconciliation, the messages
imply the need for discussion on a new social contract, and also place emphasis
on the need to build anew the Haitian nation, after the collapse of its society.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has followed closely the developments
in Haiti. A letter from the WCC's General Secretary in September 2003 to the
Protestant Federation of Haiti and member churches responded to the Federation's
message to the nation on August 2003. It recalled WCC's support to the churches
and to the peace initiatives in the country and asked for an effective implementation
of the democratization process and new elections. In November 2003, an
ecumenical delegation comprised of the Caribbean Conference of Churches (CCC),
the WCC, and Church World Service, visited Haiti to assess the situation and
express solidarity with the churches and the people. The report highlighted the
deepening of the political crisis, increasing violence and insecurity within the
country, and abuse of human rights as well as the deterioration of the economy
and the social fabric.

The visit of the WCC General Secretary to Haiti in August 2005 included amongst
others meetings with member churches, representatives of other churches, ecumenical
organizations, the interim President and the Special Representative of
the UN Secretary General in Haiti and chief of MINUSTAH. From the meetings
held it was clear the civil society and the churches have joined hands to overcome
the crisis and bring about change in social and political conditions to ensure the
rule of law. A need to rebuild and strengthen the state was expressed, together
with a stronger support from the UN, so the state could fulfill its obligations to
protect the population and grant civil and political, economic, social and cultural
rights, particularly in the areas of education, health and labour conditions, and
political elections. The visit strengthened the links with member churches, affiliated
bodies and the ecumenical movement and expressed the concern, solidarity
and prayers of the ecumenical family for the people of Haiti.

Acknowledging the critical situation in Haiti, the enormous challenges faced by
the people and the witness of the churches in the country, touched in our minds
and our hearts by this reality, the Executive Committee of the WCC, meeting in
Geneva, 13-16 September, 2005:

Reaffirms its deep concern for the current unstable political situation in Haiti and
acknowledges the efforts being made by different actors at the national and international
levels to overcome it and strengthen democracy with peace and justice;

Expresses at the same time its concern for the continuous degradation of the environment
and subsequent increasing vulnerability of the Haitian people to natural
disasters, the migratory flux towards other countries and the heavy burden of
external debt;

Calls on the Government of Haiti to guarantee welfare for all and to strengthen
democracy through the independence of the judiciary; to establish a security system
for all, that prevents the spread of small arms and gangs in the country and
prohibits arms trafficking; to ensure good governance and enactment of legislation
for effective implementation of the electoral system in order to have an elected
government in power by early 2006; to develop social policies that specifically
address reintegration of the children and youth involved in armed groups;

Asks the international community, especially the UN, the UN Stabilization Mission
in Haiti (MINUSTAH), the Organization of American States and the CARICOM
(Caribbean Community of States) and the Rio Group, to strengthen its support
to the process towards democracy, peace and justice in Haiti;

Reminds the international community and international financial institutions of
the pledge made in July 2004 to support development initiatives in the country,
strengthen democratic institutions and alleviate the debt burden and calls on them
to fulfill their commitment without delay;

Welcomes the important contribution of civil society and commends its efforts
towards unity, consensus and a new social contract of inclusion;

Acknowledges the important role of the churches in Haiti in building peace, justice
and reconciliation; and calls on them to intensify ecumenical initiatives in
this respect, especially the commitment of the churches to participate in the Decade
to Overcome Violence - churches seeking reconciliation and peace, following the biblical
teaching "Seek peace and pursue it" (Psalm 34:14);

Commends the work being done in the country by international ecumenical partners
such as Action by Churches Together (ACT) and the Lutheran World Services
(LWS) through their local offices and networks;

Calls upon WCC member churches:

• seriously to consider, together with specialized ministries and other ecumenical
partners, to provide support to the churches in Haiti to develop an election
monitoring team and provide it with necessary leadership;

• to express solidarity through actions and prayers for the people and the churches
of Haiti, and to accompany and support them in these times of difficulty;

• to continue to be involved and follow the political development in Haiti to
support processes towards genuine popular participation and a new social contract.