On Thursday, August 5, singer and entertainer Wyclef Jean filed the necessary paperwork and officially announced his foray into seeking the Haitian presidency on CNN’s Larry King Live hosted by Wolf Blitzer. The Haitian Constitution enumerates the following for a presidential candidate:
- Must be Haitian-born, never have renounced Haitian nationality (including the inability to hold dual citizenship)
- 35 years of age or older by election day
- Be a law-abiding citizen
- Own property in Haiti
- Hold residence in the country for 5 years before the date of the elections
While Mr. Jean may meet the first four requirements quite handily, that last one poses a problem. Mr. Jean, born in Haiti, moved to Brooklyn, NY at age 9 and has been a regular resident of the United States ever since. As I understand it, Mr. Jean may have maintained more frequent residency in Haiti during the past 3 years but he’s got 2 more years go if he wants to abide by the Haitian constitution. (And how reckless would it be to skirt around this set of laws then swear to uphold it afterward?)
But the big question on everyone’s minds, however, especially Haitians is: Is Wyclef Jean qualified, apart from what’s outlined in the Haitian constitution, to lead the Haitian nation?
The resounding answer is no. But then again, neither was Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti’s first democratically elected president and former Roman Catholic priest. Read more…
With constant news of the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico dominating the media for the past two to three months, it’s been easy to forget about Haiti. We’ve gone back to our cushy lives and forgotten about the people who are still suffering with no imminent relief of recovery.
A dear friend alerted me to Democracy Now!’s interview with Sean Penn who has consistently been a great part of the earthquake relief among NGOs (non-governmental [private] organizations). Penn, co-founder of the J/P Haitian Relief Organization, had tremendous insight on the current condition in Haiti and what the future holds for the country. However, I want to call out a particularly interesting bit of information from the interview:
AMY GOODMAN: $11 billion promised. Where is it?
PENN: I don’t think about $11 billion. I don’t believe in $11 billion. I think that pledge money is smoke and mirrors that evaporates as the years go on. The way it’s going to happen, is if bold organizations come in here, create manufacturing— I’d like to see them start as co-ops with philanthropic commitment to that for a period of time with a kind of sunset and then they can participate in the profit.
But right now, the donor’s conference, I think, was completely misconceived. And the way that it should have been done is somebody should have raised their hand and said, “I’m gonna rebuild every school in Haiti.” Somebody else should have raised their hand and said, “I’m gonna rebuild the hospitals and we’re gonna do it right now.”
—And instead, what happened was one after another, in Port-au-Prince — the biggest city in the biggest natural disaster in human history —systematically hospitals closed following the earthquake because money was not available and not coming in to those hospitals. The money exists and existed.
Six months later and only two percent of the promised reconstruction aid has been delivered to Haiti. The Haitian government remains crippled, most governmental humanitarian forces have left the country leaving NGOs to do the dirty work of rebuilding the country.
So what needs to be done?
- Construction and architecture. Construction needs to come in and start clearing away fallen debris. Architectural planning of new buildings should begin to address the issues that caused such devastation in the first place. Beginning with the Haitian Presidential Palace would serve two purposes:
- Symbolic move: it would show the people of Haiti and the world that action is being taken.
- Practical move: it would set the wheel in motion for the government to have a central place of operation again.
- Societal infrastructure. Community planning organizations need to begin mapping out feasible infrastructure (eg, roads, sewers, clean water) starting with the capital then working outward to nearby villages.
- Job opportunities. Manufacturing needs to come in and Haitians need to be put to work to earn a decent living.
These are basic things that occurred in America and Europe during the Industrial Revolution. Is Haiti so far backward that we can’t even get 18th and 19th century innovation started in a third-world country? Yes, Haiti has suffered much devastation since January 12 but the country is also fertile ground for positive change if people are willing to invest the money and the time.
I come before You now humbly repenting. I was foolish to think I knew better and that my human ways are wiser than Your divine ways. I echo David’s prayer of Psalm 51:
Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;
According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity
And cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
And my sin is ever before me.
Against You, You only, I have sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight,
So that You are justified when You speak
And blameless when You judge.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.
Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,
And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.
Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me to hear joy and gladness,
Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.
Hide Your face from my sins
And blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners will be converted to You.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation;
Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
That my mouth may declare Your praise.
For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it;
You are not pleased with burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
By Your favor do good to Zion;
Build the walls of Jerusalem.
Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices,
In burnt offering and whole burnt offering;
Then young bulls will be offered on Your altar.
Since I wrote an open letter to You, publicly asking questions, again I repent publicly expressing my sorrow and seeing how my limited judgment stilted my view of the work that you’re doing in Haiti.
God, You’ve inspired me. Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church and director of Churches Helping Churches has no idea who I am and probably will never know who I am. But his 32 hours on the ground in Haiti has touched my heart and given me a better perspective. A perspective I should have had but was hasty instead to rush to judgment.
I watched his special sermon to his congregation called 32 Hours: The Church in Haiti and was spiritually brought to my knees. In anger, I accused You of not caring, of not being loving, of not being fair, just, or kind when in fact, You are being more merciful that I could have possibly imagined.
I don’t know how many people watched Driscoll’s sermon; in some ways, I don’t care. But at the beginning of his sermon, he spoke of how he barely knew of Haiti and its people. I then realized that fact was true for many people around the world.
And it is through this tragedy, Lord, that people on a mass scale are FINALLY noticing, caring about, and loving Haiti. It is through this tragedy that You have forced people to come to grips with a country in the Western Hemisphere that is in impoverished in almost every single way. Haiti has received more attention in the past two weeks than it ever has before. I’m still not happy that hundreds of thousands of people had to die but I see now their deaths were not in vain. Though we know not their names, they served a purpose—they gave their lives so others might know about their country. They gave their lives so Brazil, Peru, Spain, France, and China to name a few countries, could lend medical care, provide basic needs, and help rebuild a country that has been broken for too long.
Though they may not all have known You, the hundreds of thousands of people who died gave their lives for Your gospel. Through Driscoll’s video, I realized that churches who overlooked Haiti as a mission field before are now extremely burdened for the souls of those people. Pastors who never knew Haiti existed are now begging their congregations to give generously to a country that can never give back.
And I am forced to say nothing other than “thank You.”
People wiser than I encouraged me to read the Book of Habakkuk and see how Your servant asked You questions then awaited an answer and the judgment to come. You have given me an answer, Lord. And I thank You. Because that answer has shown me what I really knew all along but couldn’t really see—that You are being glorified and magnified.
In a week or so from now, the images of Haiti will fade from most people’s minds, we’ll return to our normal lives, and the burden we feel for the country now may lessen. But you have imprinted Haiti on certain people’s hearts as a result of this and now many people from all sects of Christianity will flood into the country and witness the love of Christ in word and in deed. Some may give their lives as the country is still unstable. But the Haitian people will know of Your love and will know that Your people around the world care for them.
Thank You, Lord, for the forgiveness that You provide through Jesus Christ; thank You that You have been gracious and merciful to me to answer my prayers; and thank You for drawing me closer to You and for reigniting a flame in my heart that was slowly beginning to die and lose hope. Show me how I can be of help to a hurting country and a hurting people. Please, God, never ever let me lose sight of the work that You’ve done in my heart and the work that You’re doing in Haiti.
And, while I’m at it, thanks for making me Haitian.
Merci pour tout bagai ou b’am mwen, bon Dieu.
I don’t know if this will work but I’ve embedded Pastor Driscoll’s video on Haiti below. If it doesn’t work, feel free to see it Embedding doesn’t work. See it here. It’s on YouTube now so I’m able to embed it. It’s over an hour long but it’s the best hour I’ve spent in a long time. I’d encourage anyone—Christian or not—to watch it.
I used to be ashamed to be of my Haitian descent for the longest time. In a lot of ways, I’m not fully over it.
What good have I ever had to say about the country my parents came from? The Haitian government receives aid, money, and supplies and simply squanders it. The Haitian Creole (Kreyol) language is not popular. Eighty percent of the Haitian people are poor. In fact, Haiti, which shares an island with the Dominican Republic, is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. My parents came from a third-world country. Once I learned that, I figured there was nothing to be proud of in that.
So many times I wished I was something else, something cool. Like, oh say, Hispanic. It’s cool to be Hispanic. Spanish is a useful language to know, especially in America.
Now, it’s suddenly cool to be Haitian. Haiti, devastated by a recent earthquake, is at the forefront of the world’s mind. Suddenly, this tiny, pathetic country is huge, taking up space on the airwaves, dominating news, and pressing upon people’s hearts. Blink-182 had their signature rabbit running with the Haitian flag on a T-shirt and Lady Gaga created a T-shirt with the word “Haiti” and Haitian flag colors dominating throughout. As I type this, “Hope For Haiti Now” is on TV with the biggest and brightest of superstars lending their support to raise funds for a country that has none. People who never gave a damn before give a damn now.
I can lift my head up a little higher when I speak to people about my heritage now. Everyone seems to want to connect with a Haitian. A country that no one cared about—a throwaway nation—is suddenly front and center. When I used to tell people that my parents were from Haiti, at times, I received baffled looks, sometimes accompanied with a “Where’s that?” Everyone had heard of Cuba; Haiti? Not so much.
When the earthquake first occurred and aid poured into Haiti, I initially got upset at everyone, including myself. “Oh NOW, suddenly you care about Haiti?” Haiti has never been okay, Haiti has never been doing fine, and no one cared to assist a country that was sorely in need. Now that hundreds of thousands of people have died, the world’s eyes have been opened. The plight of the Haitian people has come before the world and moved it to compassion by giving generously to a country that may never be able to give back.
But 10 days later after the great 7.3-magnitude Haiti earthquake, I’m at a point where I can reassess and think, “Wow. People actually care. This shows the best of people. The world is moved to assist a country that it never cared about before or even knew existed.” And I must thank God. I’m not happy that so many people had to die for the world to notice Haiti. But I’m humbled by seeing the outpouring of love and support from other nations including one that I am a citizen of—the United States. I am humbled by seeing both old and young being pulled alive out of rubble days after they should have been dead. I know only a merciful God can sustain them.
The faith of the Haitian people has humbled me. To hear stories of Haitians singing “How Great Thou Art” in spite of death and decay humbles me. Yes, there is voodoo common throughout the country but Haitians are a people of faith—a people who believe in God. In fact, they refer to Him as “bon Dieu” (translated as “good God”) in almost everything. A common saying tacked on at the end of many plans is “si Dieu veux” (translated to “God willing”). Perhaps it’s superstitious and embedded in the culture but it’s there. A belief in God—not just any god but a good God—is pervasive. And it’s the faith that has carried many Haitians through, it’s the faith that has carried many buried people found alive, and it’s the faith that will help rebuild the country.
And that is something I can be proud of.
… but I can’t. So I’ll let this photo speak for me.
WARNING: Objectionable photos below the cut. Viewer discretion is advised.
I know I’m supposed to pray in a private place with the door shut and stuff but I hope you won’t excuse me writing this and making it public. I think some people feel the same way I do. I can’t officially speak for them but I know I’m not alone when I ask you the following:
Do you hate the Haitian people?
No, I mean, seriously? Like, do you hate them? Did Satan make a deal with you that he’d pick this one country in the Western Hemisphere and beat it down and allow all others to look comfortable in comparison? Is Pat Robertson right? Did you curse this country because some idiot slaves wanted to be free from French rule?
I am conflicted, Lord. I was born in New York. I am a first-born American. Yet, Haitian blood flows through my veins. I am more related to a country that was reigned by terror and plagued with fear than a country that gave people of my skin color the right to attend any school of their choosing only 45 years ago. I have never known the fear of Papa Doc and Baby Doc but then again, I have never known the fear of the Ku Klux Klan or other white supremacy organizations. I feel straddled between two countries.
I have never been to Haiti. Out of concern for my safety and protection, my mother and father would never take me there. “It’s not the country it used to be,” they lament.
Lord, were there ever glory days in Haiti? What was it like when my parents were growing up? They speak of it fondly as though those were the good ol’ days. But you allowed my grandfather to be gunned down in cold blood during those good ol’ days. Political strife was still present even back then.
Even though I have never been to Haiti, it is a country my parents grew up in. I am first-generation. I guess I don’t need to tell you that; you ordained it. As a result, when I see the images of bodies strewn everywhere, buried under rubble, piled up on one another–I am cut to the quick. Read more…
You have more than they do. Donate. Remember, $5-$10 goes a long way in a third-world country.