Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Letter of Support: Release Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Interfaith Religious

I am writing to ask that you join me in signing onto
the following letter calling for the immediate release
from prison of Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste, Pastor of St.
Claire’s Parish in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He is a
Catholic Priest who has been held in the National
Penitentiary in Haiti since July 21, 2005. No formal
charges have been brought against him. In the past
year, I have traveled to Haiti five times to
investigate reports of increased human rights
violations since the February 2004 coup d’ etat which
removed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti’s
democratically elected President. I have visited Fr.
Jean Juste in prison on three different occasions,
most recently on August 22, 2005. During that visit,
Fr. Jean Juste referred to conditions in the prison,
and the treatment of the prisoners as “ inhumanity at
its peak.” In addition to being the Pastor of a very
poor parish in Haiti, he has been an outspoken,
non-violent activist advocating on behalf of the
defenseless poor, human rights, political prisoners,
and democracy.


Falsified charges followed by arrests and imprisonment
are often used to silence those who speak out against
human rights violations. I have witnessed first-hand
that Haiti is in a political, economic, and human
rights crisis of immense proportions. Initially when I
visited, I wondered how the poverty and lack of human
rights could get any worse. Remarkably, each
subsequent trip has revealed deeper devastation.


We cannot stand idly by.  I urge you to sign this
letter in the hope that Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste will be
released immediately in order to return to his duties
as Pastor of St. Claire’s Parish.


It is important that you sign on no later than
Wednesday, Sept. 28th to make sure that your name is


Please respond with your name, title, and religious
affiliation to one of the following:


Johanna Berrigan;

Bishop Gumbleton;


Margaret Trost;


Thank you for your support of Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste
and the people of Haiti.




Bishop Thomas Gumbleton



Timothy Carney, Charge D’affairs,

United States Embassy

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Fax: 011-509-223-1641 or 9038


Anthony Beaver

State Department Haiti Desk

2100 C St. NW, Rm. 4906


Washington, DC 20520


Prime Minister

Gérard Latortue

Ministère de l’Intérieure, Villa d’Accueil, Delmas 60

Musseau, Port-au-Prince, HAITI

Fax: +509 298 3901


Dear Sirs,


We write you as an interfaith group of religious
leaders asking that you take every action in your
power to secure the immediate release of Father Gerard
Jean-Juste from prison in Haiti.


Father Jean-Juste has been in prison since July 21,
2005 and is being held in the Annex of the National
Penitentiary even though there are no formal or
written charges against him. Father Jean-Juste is a
Roman Catholic priest who is known among hundreds of
thousands in Haiti as the “pastor of the poor” because
of his outspoken advocacy on behalf of those at the
margins, including children who are barely able to
survive from one day to the next. Ordained a priest in
the 1960s, he has been described as “the Martin Luther
King, Jr. of Haiti”.


Father Jean-Juste has been designated as a Prisoner of
Conscience by Amnesty International and by many other
national and international human rights groups
including Human Rights First. His parish, St.
Claire’s, is on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, about
a mile from the nearest paved road. Yet children walk
for miles several times a week to benefit from a food
program he has established at the church to offer them
nourishment and hope. More than 3,000 wholesome meals
are being served every other day to the children;
keeping many of them alive. In addition, some of the
girls and boys are being sent to school for the first
time in their lives because of the initiatives he has
taken at St. Claire’s. The church has become an oasis
of hope in this painful and violent time through which
Haiti is passing.


As you are perhaps aware, Father Jean-Juste is a
well-known and outspoken advocate for human rights,
the release of political prisoners, the establishment
of democracy in Haiti, and for non-violent solutions
to the country’s problems. His arrest occurred at a
church after he was attacked by a mob while attempting
to co-celebrate a funeral mass for a slain journalist.


As spiritual leaders of many faiths, we are moved to
write to you by the biblical summons to lift up our
voices for the voiceless and to stand alongside of
those unjustly treated. We ask you to please take
every action in your power to secure the immediate
release of Father Gerard Jean-Juste and to champion
the cause of freedom of speech and the establishment
of a just and humane society in Haiti.


Respectfully yours,


Thomas J. Gumbleton, Auxiliary Bishop, Detroit, MI

Joan Chittister, OSB, Benedictine Sister of Erie, Pa.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Director, Shalom Center,
Philadelphia, Pa.

John H. Thomas, General Minister and President, United
Church of Christ


Background on Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste:

The Roman Catholic priest, Father Gerard Jean-Juste,
pastor of St. Claire’s Church, Port-au-Prince, Haiti,
is a well-known figure in Haitian circles both in his
homeland and in the United States. For some years, he
was the charismatic leader of the Haitian refugee
community in Miami, Florida. This was during a period
of forced exile from his homeland. He is revered by
hundreds of thousands of impoverished Haitians for his
vigorous affirmations of democracy and human rights in
his country. He has been tireless in his defense of
the rights of the poor and he has been increasingly
outspoken on behalf of political prisoners and others
held in Haitian prisons. Fr. Jean-Juste has remained a
close friend of the deposed President Aristide of
Haiti and has, himself, been mentioned in various
newspaper reports as a possible candidate for the
presidency of his country.


The past year has been particularly traumatic in Fr.
Jean-Juste’s life. Hooded “police” entered the St.
Claire’s Church rectory in October of last year,
beating and arresting the priest in the presence of
600 children who were gathered for one of several
meals served to them weekly at the church in a program
he developed six years ago. As he was led, hand-cuffed
from the church, the children were ordered to keep
quiet. Instead, they began to sing and they recited
together the Lord’s Prayer. Three children were shot
and recovered, through the intercession of members of
the congregation and people of faith in the United
States. Through the efforts of Amnesty International,
Pax Christi, the “What If?” Foundation and other
groups around the world, he was released from prison
on November 28.


A pastor with a strong pastoral heart, he has arranged
for dozens of children from the neighborhood
surrounding St. Claire’s to attend school for the
first time in their lives, providing in many cases the
resources for tuition, uniforms, books and writing
materials. Recently, 400 boys and girls from the
neighborhood attended a summer program in the arts at
St. Claire’s, which was developed with his guidance.
As noted in the accompanying letter, he was attacked
in July while preparing to co-celebrate mass for a
journalist who was killed by kidnappers in
Port-au-Prince. Ironically and unjustly, he was
accused of committing the murder himself, though he
was in Miami, Florida at the time. He was arrested, it
was said, ‘for his own protection.’ Father
Jean-Juste’s life has been threatened on many
occasions, and there is great fear among human rights
advocates in the Haitian community in Miami and
elsewhere in the United States that he will not ever
be allowed to emerge from prison.


An advocate of non-violent peaceful resistance to
injustice in the tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr.
and of Msgr. Oscar Romero, Father Gerard Jean-Juste is
known to many persons of faith, particularly among
Roman Catholics and many in the United Church of
Christ in the United States, as a brave advocate of
peace with justice, a return to democratic ideals, and
the honoring of the human rights of all persons in


Contact IJDH

Institute for Justice & Democracy In Haiti
867 Boylston Street, 5th Floor
Boston, MA 02116

Telephone: (857)-201-0991
General Inquiries:
Media Inquiries: