This Week’s Action: The fight for justice for Haiti’s poor too often evokes the proverb deye mon gen mon – “behind mountains there are more mountains.” We always seem to be trudging uphill, facing new obstacles. But we also sometimes get to the top of the mountains, and win real victories. When we get there, we often focus on the next mountain, and forget to enjoy the view we have. The New Year is a good opportunity to pause for a minute, to look around at and take pride in all we have accomplished, and to honor our climbing companions.
The first Half-Hour For Haiti alert of 2006 was Don’t Let Prison Be A Death Sentence For Father Gerry. Fr. Jean-Juste was in his sixth month of illegal imprisonment, and had been diagnosed with chronic leukemia. After visiting him, Dr. Paul Farmer feared that the cancer could advance quickly into a fatal stage, or weaken Fr. Gerry’s immune system enough for the diseases of Haiti’s prisons to kill him.
The Half-Hour for Haiti community inundated the U.S. State Department, members of Congress and Haitian officials with calls, faxes and letters. Within a month, Fr. Gerry was receiving treatment in a Miami hospital. Now, at the beginning of 2007, his doctors say he is cancer-free (although with a low white blood cell count), and he writes:
<<Unbelievable, God has granted our requests. A year ago, I was dying in jail. At Heaven’s gate, your marches, prayers, singing, e-mails, phone calls were echoing so much, St. Peter received the order to send me back. Now, I am free, in fair health and full of hope. By God’s given power within you, you are miracle makers. You feel great and so I am.
By keeping the human rights struggle alive, we are building a new world. Let’s welcome year 2007 and be ready to double our efforts for a better world. With God’s bless, enjoy life, enjoy mutual
The alert for last January 17 was from Amnesty International, to Free Annette Auguste, “So Ann”. The folksinger, grandmother and grassroots activist had spent 20 months in jail without being charged. She could not speak publicly or even get access to a judge. Today she spoke freely on the Democracy Now! news program in New York, starting off by thanking everyone who struggled to free her from jail (see Haitian Folk-Singing Legend and ex-Political Prisoner So An Auguste on her Arrest by US Marines and the US Role in Haiti’s Ongoing Turmoil).
Former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune started 2006 in prison, his body wasting away from a partial hunger strike. Now healthy and free, he writes: “Today, I am happy to be able to freely extend to you my most cordial thanks.”
At the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), we are grateful for the privilege of working with Fr. Gerry, So An, Mr. Neptune and all the grassroots activists in Haiti who fought so hard and sacrificed so much for the restoration of democracy and the rule of law to Haiti. No matter how high the mountains ahead loomed, no matter how hard the obstacles, they continued to struggle, with non-violence and a deep faith in democracy and justice.
We are also grateful for all the supporters of Haiti in the rest of the world, who called, wrote and faxed, who provided encouragement, criticism, advice, translations, action alerts and the financial support we need to keep going.
As Fr. Gerry, So An and Yvon Neptune remind us, there are still mountains to climb: there are political prisoners still in jail, executions on the street for the crime of being poor, black and living in the wrong neighborhood, insecurity, and a constant violation of the social and economic rights of the majority of Haitians who are poor. We’ll have more on that next week, and every week after that. But for now, enjoy the view.
Thank you, and Peace, Brian Concannon
For more information about the Half-Hour for Haiti Program, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, or human rights in Haiti, see www.HaitiJustice.org. To receive Half-Hour for Haiti Action Alerts once per week, send an email to HalfHour4Haiti@ijdh.org.