Global community is obligated to address Haiti's plight, says U.N. nuncio

A man in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, drives his motorcycle past a burning barricade Oct. 20, 2021, as demonstrators take part in a protest against high prices and fuel shortages. (CNS photo/Ralph Tedy Erol, Reuters)

UNITED NATIONS (CNS) -- As Haitians seek to rebuild their country, "it is imperative that the international community take a shared and concrete interest in their plight," the Vatican's U.N. nuncio said during an informal meeting of the Security Council on Haiti's dire situation.

"The international community must fulfill its duty to protect and provide humanitarian assistance," Archbishop Gabriele Caccia said.

"While immediate gestures are necessary, true solidarity demands a long-term vision that engages all levels of Haitian society, with the support of the region and the wider international community," he said.

The archbishop, who is the Vatican's permanent observer to the U.N., spoke at the Security Council's Arria Formula Meeting on Haiti held virtually Oct. 15.

An "Arria" meeting is a gathering that can be convened by any Security Council member or members to discuss a matter of serious concern when an official council convening is not scheduled.

"The problems faced by the Haitian people are multifaceted and interconnected," Archbishop Caccia said, adding that he was grateful to be able to address the meeting "to encourage a national dialogue and reconciliation process in Haiti, in favor of the Haitian people so dear to the heart of Pope Francis, as seen in his appeals and gestures of solidarity."

Earthquakes -- most recently the devastating magnitude 7.2 earthquake in August -- and other natural disasters have caused widespread suffering for Haitians, he said.

The July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse has led to civil unrest, kidnappings, gang violence and a lack of security that "has become unbearable," Archbishop Caccia added.

"The deep and historic fractures in Haitian society have led to the sad reality that even armed gangs consider themselves victims ... scrambling for food, cash and other ways to alleviate their own dire condition," he continued. "(They are) victims of underdevelopment and lack of opportunity, of manipulation by those who benefit from inter-Haitian chaos, and who, in turn, victimize and perpetuate violence as if it were the norm."

"Such acts of armed violence can never be justified, and other forms of criminal activity must be equally condemned," he said. "Impunity and the illegal circulation of arms and ammunition must cease, while the commitment to tackle corruption at all levels of society must be scaled up."

A day after Archbishop Caccia's comments, the kidnapping of 17 Christian missionaries from the U.S. became the latest sign of the deteriorating circumstances in Haiti.

The group is with Christian Aid Ministries, based in Millersburg, Ohio. They were grabbed after their visit to an orphanage in Croix-des-Bouquets, a northeast suburb of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince.

The 400 Mawozo, which is considered in control of Croix-des-Bouquets and the surrounding area, claimed credit for the kidnapping and was demanding a $17 million ransom -- $1 million per person.

Christian Aid Ministries said the group included five men and seven women ranging in age from 18 to 48, and five children, ages 8 months, 3, 6, 13 and 15.

A White House spokeswoman said Oct. 18 that the FBI was working with the U.S. diplomatic team in Haiti in to locate the missionary group and get them freed.

At the United Nations, Archbishop Caccia told the Security Council's Arria meeting that the Catholic Church "remains committed to its mission of care for the most vulnerable and those on the peripheries" in Haiti.

"Through health care, social support and especially through education, it continues to play an essential part in preparing future generations and fostering dialogue at all levels, while trying to sow seeds of much-needed reconciliation," he said.

"The words of Pope Francis surely express the hope of us all that the Haitian people might know a future of fraternal harmony, solidarity and prosperity," Archbishop Caccia added. "In this regard, the U.N. Mission for Justice Support in Haiti, as the primary expression of international solidarity, should be equipped with the resources to fulfill its purpose."

Echoing the U.N. nuncio's words, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said the world can no longer ignore the suffering of the people of Haiti, an island that has been exploited and pillaged by wealthier nations for centuries.

In an op-ed written following his Oct. 17-19 visit to the Caribbean nation, Archbishop Paglia said he was taken aback by "the spectacle of swarms of children and piles of garbage" he saw while traveling by car along the streets of Port-au-Prince.

Kidnapping and demanding ransom have become "one of the main sources of income for quite a few young people," he said, adding that many Haitians have lost hope and despite the efforts of NGOs and foreign associations, which described as "a drop in the ocean, or rather, in the desert of life and hope."


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