By Fr. George Welzbacher
January 9, 2011
On January twelfth, 2010, a year ago this coming Wednesday, a massive earthquake centered on Haiti left more than two hundred thousand of this "Caribbean hell-hole's" citizens dead and many more injured, while delivering a knock-out blow to an economy that was already gasping, on the ropes. With characteristic compassion Americans rushed in with generous allocations of food, money, and medical and logistical aid, even as many another prosperous nation confined itself to expressions of concern. But so deeply entrenched in corruption, a corruption so pervasive as to be systemic, is the something that passes for a "government" in Haiti that twelve months after the earthquake, the situation is, if anything, worse, with the emerging threat of cholera casting an ominous shadow.
The following report on the present situation in Haiti appeared in the current issue (January, 201 1) of the insightful monthly magazine Newsmax.
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A Year After Quake, Haiti Still in Shambles
Newsmax, January 2011
One year after the earthquake that savaged Haiti, more than a million people remain homeless, living in tents or under tarps in 1300 fetid camps, most with no electricity, running water, latrines, or managers to coordinate aid, according to many international observers.
In a Caribbean setting less than 600 miles from the glitz of Miami, Haiti's perpetually Third-World infrastructure was set back decades in just seconds when the Jan. 12, 2010 quake hit, killing more than 230,000 and injuring 300,000. Not even an unprecedented outpouring of aid from the United States and elsewhere has made a dent in the devastation. LITTLE of the $10 billion in donations pledged for reconstruction has hit the streets, experts note. Meanwhile, a place already infamous for violence, corruption, and political disarray continues to plummet toward chaos. The international relief effort not only hasn't reduced suffering but may also have introduced the first cholera epidemic in the Western Hemisphere in five decades. "The SYSTEM as it is GUARANTEES its failure," Laura Zenotti, a Virginia Tech University political scientist who has studied Haitian relief efforts, tells The Wall Street Journal.
Other nations have been slow to deliver promised aid. Less that 38 percent of the money pledged for 2010-11 has been delivered. Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Finland, and the Caribbean Development Bank have yet to give ANY of the money they promised, according to former President Bill Clinton's U.N. Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti.
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton warned a recent U. N. conference that, if the effort to rebuild is "slow or insufficient, if it is marked by conflict, lack of coordination, or lack of transparency, then the challenges that have plagued Haiti for years could erupt with regional and global consequences."
Haitian elections at the end of November dissolved into chaos with ballot boxes torn to pieces and allegations of rampant fraud. Preliminary results in early December were just a precursor to even more tumultuous runoffs for president and for nearly all senatorial and parliamentary races, observers noted.
Meanwhile, Haiti's crippled society and NEARLY NONEXISTENT GOVERNMENT have left the rebuilding of the country largely in the hands of international charities or non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Haiti now has more aid groups per capita than any other nation, perhaps as many as 10,000, according to the World Bank. The groups are saving lives, but insiders concede that they have created a republic of dependency that has stymied the growth of Haiti's public sector. If international relief organizations run hospitals, schools, and most recently, tent cities, there is little incentive for the country's government to pick up the load.
Paul Farmer, founder of Partners in Health, an NGO that is effectively the country's largest healthcare provider, believes some of the relief should go directly to the Haitian state. "NGOs have flourished in number and size as the public sector has withered in Haiti," Farmer says.
But others say that waiting for the government to improve will cost lives. Things would be worse if it weren't for NGOs, says Samuel Worthington, president of InterAction, an umbrella group that represents major U. S. aid groups. "What NGOs can say is that there are a lot more kids in school, a lot less mothers dying, thanks to their efforts," he says, by adding that he expects his groups will be in Haiti for another 50 years at least.
Port-au-Prince, a city of 3 million, was already in a state of decay when the quake struck. Shantytowns housed tens of thousands living along the steep slopes and deep valleys of Haiti's mountainous capital city. Port-au-Prince's labyrinth of narrow streets has made it nearly impossible to fully clear massive amounts of rubble.
Roads from Haiti's more developed eastern neighbor, the Dominican Republic, are poorly paved and dangerous, thwarting relief efforts. And Haiti LACKS formal property ownership RECORDS, making rebuilding difficult with thousands of squatters and refugees from the deforested, infertile countryside.
Given those obstacles, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York concedes that even RECORD private-relief efforts - U.S. CATHOLICS DONATED $82.6 million for Haiti-haven't produced impressive results. "In addition to food provided to nearly 900,000 people in the early months of the response, the [church] continues to provide monthly food rations to more than 100,000 children in over 370 schools, orphanages, and child-care centers, many of them run by Catholic parishes." Dolan says, adding, "The rebuilding has been tragically slow."
To make matters worse, frustrated Haitians are clashing violently with U. N. workers over accusations that the peacekeepers brought the deadly cholera bacteria to the island nation. The disease has killed 1,000 Haitians in rural areas and experts fear it will run rampant if it reaches the squalid survivor camps in Port-au-Prince.
* * * * *Whereas nature does not discriminate when it goes on a rampage, man-made terror shrewdly selects its targets. A case in point is the campaign of terror currently being systematically waged by Al-Qaeda in Iraq against that country's Christian minority, a rapidly dwindling minority. As recently as on the last two days of 2010 hand-grenades were being lobbed at the homes of Baghdad's Christians, this on the heels of the maiming and massacre of Chaldean Catholics in Baghdad's Catholic Cathedral on All Saints Eve, with a number of subsequent murders carried out by thugs breaking brazenly into Christian homes. And still fresh in our minds as we go to press, are the deaths - more than two dozen with nearly a hundred injured - from the bomb attack on Egypt's Coptic Christians in Alexandria as they emerged from Mass on New Year's Day. Guerilla warfare against Christian minorities would seem to be on the way to becoming almost the norm in the Muslim world today.
And may I share with you yet another report from the very same issue of Newsmax.
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Iraq's Last Christians Cower in Fear
Newsmax, January 2011
Kenneth R. Timmerman and Edward Pentin
In a scene growing horrifically familiar, 10 jihadi Muslims - some dressed as Iraqi police officers - stormed into a Christian [Roman Catholic] church gunning down the faithful in cold blood. The attack during Sunday Mass on October 31st left 58 parishioners dead and 78 wounded. Not a single person in Our Lady of the Deliverance Catholic Church in Baghdad on All Saints Eve escaped the carnage unscathed.
The massacre, one of the bloodiest single assaults on an Iraqi Christian church, was among more than 70 attacks on Christians since the 2003 liberation of Iraq from the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. In the days that followed the atrocity, several more COORDINATED terror bombings in Christian neighborhoods left three dead and nearly 30 injured.
Amid the drawdown of American troops and the nominal end of U. S. combat operations in Iraq, the nation's 1.5 million Christians say they are living IN CONSTANT FEAR. Muslim insurgent groups have killed about 800 Christians with COUNTLESS OTHERS TAKEN HOSTAGE.
* * * * *MORE THAN HALF of Iraqi Christians have FLED their homes, most of them exiled to neighboring Jordan and Syria, experts say. Many more PLAN to flee. In 2003, the number of Christian families living in the Iraqi capital was 40,000: now, barely 50 reside there, according to figures given to Aid to the Church in Need, a Christian charity.
Iraq's Christians are "on the verge of extinction," says John Eibner, the CEO of Christian Solidarity Intemational-USA who recently returned from an aid mission to the Nineveh Plain and Mosul.
"What we gave American lives to liberate this country for was not this," says Carl Moeller, president and CEO of Open Doors with Brother Andrew, a Christian aid group active in Iraq. "Most Americans would be appalled at the lack of liberty in a country we fought and died to liberate, and that we are watching slowly disintegrate into sectarian chaos. The church is bleeding." Survivors of the Oct. 31 attack tell blood-curdling stories about the viciousness of the Al-Qaida gunmen. One of the assailants shot a pregnant woman after her dying husband tried to protect her and their unborn child. Another ordered a young parishioner to convert to Islam on the spot, then shot him in the head. Al-Qaida has said it wants to drive Christians out of Iraq and from Muslim lands in general. Fortner GOP Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan said he believes the U. S. government's RESPONSE to the persecution of Christians in Iraq and throughout the Middle East is half-hearted and embarrassing.
"I think it's fine that President Obama is trying to build bridges to the MUSLIM world," he tells Newsmax. "But where is the SAME passion for protecting CHRISTIANS AND JEWS in the Middle East? It's almost scandalous that America is NOT talking about this."
The head of the Chaldean [Roman Catholic] Church in Jordan, the Rev. Raymond Moussaili, warned a recent Vatican meeting of the Middle East church leaders that jihadi Muslims are waging "a deliberate campaign to drive out the Christians" from Iraq. "There are Satanic plans by extremist fundamentalist groups against Christians not only in Iraq, but in ALL the Middle East," he said.
Religious persecution in Iraq has become so egregious that the U. S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has designated it a "Country of Particular Concern," says Commissioner Nina Shea.
Joseph Kassab, executive director of the Chaldean Federation of America, says his organization is calling for the international community to intervene. "Things are deteriorating very fast in Iraq; our people are left with no choice but to flee because they are losing hope and there are no serious actions taken to protect them as of today," Kassab says.
Although the attacks in Iraq have been particularly violent, Christian communities THROUGHOUT the Middle East have been under siege from Muslim majorities in recent years. "There is very real pressure from Islamic extremists to cleanse Egypt, just as they are trying to cleanse Iraq, and [Iran President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad is trying to cleanse Iran," Moeller says. "This is a fundamental struggle for the life of the Christian church."
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Whether there is significantly more that we can do to provide assistance for Haiti is open to question; at some point the citizens of a polity with a history co-terminous with our own will have to begin to cooperate more effectively in their own recovery. But right now our fellow Christians in Egypt and in Iraq are in desperate need of American diplomatic intervention. After all, the governments in question are heavily dependent on the protective umbrella of our military might and on periodic infusions, substantial infusions of American cash. Surely our government, if it were of a mind to do so, could find some way to bring pressure to bear on the aforesaid governments to provide protection for their Christian populations.
In the meantime let's keep our tormented fellow Christians at the center of our prayers each day. That at least is something you and I can do. And perhaps a letter to one or more of our representatives in Washington might help. Perhaps. Maybe. Well, it was just a thought.
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