Report by Fr. John Henault, OMI with thanks to Bro. Richard Cote, OMI
(Editor’s note: Fr. John Henault, OMI has spent many of his 86 years ministering to the people of Haiti, often called the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. Lately, it has also become one of the most violent countries as well. Generations of Haitian people have been the victims of corrupt governments, hunger, lack of healthcare and any opportunity to escape abject poverty and hopelessness. The Missionary Oblates have poured men and resources into Haiti since 1942 at great risk to their own lives. According to Fr. Henault’s recent communication to Bro. Richard Cote, OMI, the situation is perhaps more critical than ever. The text below are Fr. Henault’s own words describing the current situation as he is personally experiencing it.)
“Things are not going well here at all. Although the gang leader released the mother of a local priest from Cap Haitien, and three other religious order priests (Miami Herald April 11, 2021). They are still holding two, one from France and two Nuns, one also from France, along with two lay people.
The situation is very tense. I have a neighbor facing my house, who is knee deep in politics. He is armed and holds loud, boisterous meetings on weekends. When he has a meeting, the Sisters (Missionaries of Charity) and I all keep away from the main gate facing his property and do not go outside, for fear of stray bullets. Last weekend we heard five gunshots that sounded like they were coming from inside our campus. It is a real disturbing situation with NO visible solution. The gangs are better armed than the police and some of the police are in the gangs as well!
UPDATE! Before I could finish this e–mail an incident just occurred. The Sisters sent someone to get me because a group of hooded police entered the property seeking a gang leader. Rumor in the streets has it that the leader took refuge at the Sisters’ Hospice because he was very sick and hiding here. The chief of police for Gonaives, with a number of uniformed policemen and as well as a SWAT team searched the whole compound. The Sisters were concerned that the police activity would bring fear to the residents and wanted me to explain this to them. The escalating situation was eventually resolved but it sure stirred up the people at the Hospice and the people in the neighborhood. One has to experience such events to see just how dehumanizing, and fearful life can become. But we know THE GOOD SHEPARD is with us and there is nothing to fear. Once again this evening we will recite Psalm 23 for the strength to live through another day.
Please ask the Oblates of the U.S. to keep us in prayer as we face some very difficult times right now. There are NO vaccines available anywhere in Haiti. As it stands right now it doesn’t look good for Fr. Fred (Charpentier) and myself being able to travel this summer (for the 2nd year in a row) unless something DRASTIC or should I say MIRACULOUS happens.”