To eavesdrop on the locals and gauge the situation on the ground, instead of traveling by plane, I took the long road by bus from Port -au -Prince to the north of Haiti towards the city of Cap-Haitien.
My final destination being my hometown, the city of Grand River, where the feast of St. Rose was taking place on August 30.
Grand River is located 24 kilometres from Cap-Hait-ien, the hometown of Haiti’s founding father, Jean Jacques Dessalines; it is also the home base of Jean Price Mars, Haiti’s most notable anthropologist, the father figure of black is beautiful.
For the Diaspora or the transnational, attending one’s home town fiesta is priceless.
The city, a bucolic town surrounded by mountains filled with trees, represents an oasis in a country where the seeds are eaten instead of given the time and the nurture to grow into mature vegetation.
In addition to the musical extravaganza, the balls, and the food fair, the centrepiece of the fiesta was the high mass, celebrated this year by the archbishop of Cap-Haitien, Bishop Louis Kebreau, who is also the presiding bishop of the conference of Bishops of Haiti.
Surrounded by some 42 priests, the celebration of Eucharist in the church was a rare occasion for the Archbishop in a language simple but firm to present the position of the Catholic Church.
He said right at the beginning that the Catholic Church, as Diogenes, is seeking for Haiti a leader with the intellect, the charisma and the patriotism to help in the rebuilding of the country.
The bunch of politici-ans/politichiens (rhyming with dogs) on the scene does not fit the bill. The present Haitian government has exhibited a profound disrespect for the needs and the aspirations of the Haitian people.
The government, in a misguided policy initiative, has spent for the fiesta four million gourdes or 100,000 U.S. dollars in a cultural festival that included no local import for two days. Yet the town needs support in electrification, the water system is dysfunctional and 85 percent of the population is unemployed.
The theme of the sermon was centred on four points: Unity, solidarity, political will and integrity. Starting with the last point, the Bishop urged the need for respect in and for the cultural values of the Haitian people.
The rebuilding of Haiti cannot be made with tents as the cornerstone of the infrastructure. It has never been in the Haitian ethos.
The Haitian culture is not a laicized one, the Haitian person, as the Hassidic Jew or the Buddhist from Burma, needs respect for his religious beliefs.
The depersonalization of the individual is almost complete, depending on the government or outside res-ources to recoup; he is being used as a political pawn.
The bishop put his finger on the lack of political will from the governmental circle in solving the fundamental problem of Haiti, which is the lack of solidarity and unity within the Haitian family. The rebuilding is being engineered by a group within the government that has no interest of the Haitian people at heart.
It is supported by international interests more inclined to support the status quo than institute a new paradigm where all Haitian people could enjoy the fruits of justice and happiness in their own land.
The bishop’s message was well received by the audience. In a luncheon with all the priests later at the home of the vicar, I foresaw difficulty ahead; some of the priests (a minority) were embedded with the corrupt practice of politicians buying influence with the clergy with large amounts of money.
The people of Haiti were the victim of the practice. The church’s influence in the mind and the spirit of the people is still strong. It has created and defeated government in the past.
Will the circle that produced Jean Bertrand Aristide succeed in maintaining the worst of the angels in the minds of the people or will the group led by the archbishop urge the best to produce a new Haitian man and woman, bent on building a nation that shall become hospitable to all?
This window of opportunity in this electoral year has a national and international dimension. There are international forces and institutions that are aligning themselves with the national bad angels to produce a masquerade of an election that will ensure instability and poverty in the country for the foreseeable future.
Even God was at the party — the earthquake of January 12 of this year was, as in Egypt, one of the signals to let my people go! Maintaining Haiti and its people in subjugation will draw more ire from the Maker!
People always have great expectations for the Catholic Church and often fail to accept reality.
The reality, of the Haitian Catholic Church sees a body controlled by many cynical, and basically corrupt individuals. Some of the highest – and lower levels of the Church have been…are involved with the cocaine trade.
Others have a bevy of mistresses, drive expensive cars, drink expensive whiskey and live a definitely un-churchlike existence.