Statement of Inter-American Committee of Religious
Gathered in Washington, DC March 5, 2004
We come forth as the conferences of the approximately 250,000 Catholic men and women vowed religious sisters, brothers, and priests of the Americas gathered here in Washington, DC, for the annual meeting of the Confederation of Latin American Religious, the Canadian Conference of Religious, the U.S. Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and the U.S. Conference of Major Superiors of Men’s Institutes of the Religious Life. We are profoundly shaken by the events in Haiti in recent weeks and especially over these days. At the international assembly of our conferences in Toronto, Canada in 1999 we declared the nation of Haiti a principal collaborative focus of our conferences and of the religious of this hemisphere and called for major policy focus by the international community on the needs of Haiti. In 2001, this body met in Port au Prince, Haiti for an immersion and fact-finding experience with the help of our fellow religious conference there, the Haitian Religious Conference. We repeated our call for close and sustained attention to the economic, structural, political, and humanitarian needs of that country.
In this moment of great suffering for Haiti, we have been in direct contact with our partners in Haiti and call upon the nations collaborating in the current effort to restore order to Haiti and to help return its society to more stable foundations and all nations of good will
- to provide immediately all forms of humanitarian aid to relieve the population from the great suffering of recent weeks;
- to disarm all of the factions bringing violence to Haiti immediately so that peace can be restored both nationally and in local communities;
- to commit immediately resources and personnel to help in training for conflict resolution and processes of reconciliation at the local and national level in Haiti in order to restore the social fabric that has been further torn asunder during these years;
- to train and form, once again, an effective police presence under civilian control within effectively supervised standards of international human rights law and practice;
- to model international human rights law and practice by assuring that the intervening forces are carefully monitored in following these values;
- to help Haitian themselves form a transitional government of at least one to two years so that elections can be held only after peace has been restored, the violent groups have been disarmed, and the people and society returned to a situation of calm in which elections can truly have meaning;
- to avoid imposing structures of government and economics that are foreign to the Haitian people and that would import ideologies of government and economics from the outside that would trample on the values of the Haitian people, and to strengthen the role of government in its ability to protect its people;
- to help the Haitian people grow an economy that can produce real work and jobs in order to lift the nation from its structured poverty and endemically radical economic class divisions;
- to begin a widespread and concerted effort to raise the education levels of the Haitian population to better the lives of its people and assure that they will be able to compete in the contemporary interlocked economic systems of the world;
- to help provide mechanisms for redressing the human rights violations that have occurred during these years by helping victims document the violations and have their cases heard to eliminate impunity and lessen the need for the private redressing of wrongs leading to another spiral of violence;
- to effect immediate changes in immigration practice and policy especially in the United States in order to assure that those asserting refugee status can truly have their asylum petitions heard and decided upon rather than simply returning them to Haiti from the high seas, and suspend deportation and forced return of Haitians to the chaos of Haiti until order is restored there as the Dominican Republic government has recently done;
- work with and through the United Nations in helping the people of Haiti.
Another ill-conceived, short-term invasion to restore order without attention to these long-term needs of Haiti will only prolong the tragedy and suffering of this nation. We call once again upon the governments involved in the restoration of order in Haiti to commit themselves to these kinds of long term plans for the reconstruction of the Haitian economy and society respecting the independence and autonomy of the Haitian people, their culture, their values, and their social traditions.
To our brothers and sisters in Haiti, we speak once again out of the heartfelt solidarity of the 250,000 Catholic religious of the Americas and assure you that we are with you during this period of trial. We stand with the religious of Haiti and their conference in support of their many efforts for reaching out to you. We speak as one voice with whatever influence we have in this hemisphere on your behalf.
Canadian Religious Conference
Sr. Giséle Turcot, SBC, President
Sr. Margaret Toner, SCIC, Director
Confederation of Latin American Religious
Sr. Esperanza Morán, FSA President
Sr. Dina Maria Orellana, RM, Secretary General
US Conference of Major Superiors of Men’s Institutes
Very Rev. John Doctor, OFM, Vice President
Rev. Ted Keating, SM, Executive Director
US Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Sr. Christine Vladimiroff, OSB, Vice President
Sr. Carole Shinnick, SSND, Executive Director