Jesuit Father Pedro Suarez, Returning from the Dominican Republic, Reports on the Situation in Haiti

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Jesuit Father Pedro Suarez, returning from the Dominican Republic, reports on the situation in Haiti, including the relief efforts.

If anything good can come out of a disaster like this, it is a new attitude of mercy and solidarity that I found among the Dominican people towards their neighbors. TV marathons are being held and there are many calls from all sides to generously help Haiti with money, water, food, milk (the kind that can be stored without refrigeration), bandages and medications.

Several Jesuits who work with Haitians in the Dominican Republic have gone to Haiti to help. Every parish and school in the DR is collecting goods for Haiti and even our Jesuit House of Philosophy (where many young Haitian Jesuits are studying) has become a ‘centro de acopio’(storage center) for receiving and distributing all kinds of goods to the other side of the border. The President of the Dominican Republic, Lionel Fernandez, went to Port-au-Prince to show his solidarity and that of his country to Monsieur Preval, the overwhelmed Haitian President.

The only Jesuit who was seriously hurt (known as Fr Nono) was brought to Santo Domingo to be operated on and apparently his surgery went well and saved his leg, badly hurt by a falling wall. He is the Director of ‘Fe y Alegria’, a popular educational institution spread out in many countries of Latin America and even Africa.

Not to repeat what everyone has seen on TV or learned from emails, to say that the situation in Haiti is critical is an understatement. On the plane from Santo Domingo to Miami I was sitting next to a British journalist returning from Haiti who told me that ‘in Haiti there is no government’, as it has become dismantled by the earthquake.

Lots of functionaries, many members of the UN peace-keeping force (including its two highest-ranking officials), the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince and his main aides, many priests, nuns and seminarians, have all perished under the rubble, and their offices destroyed, including heavy damage to the Presidential Palace. Many people of all persuasions (right, left and in the middle) have expressed that this is the time when the US marines could be a welcome force to impose some kind of order in the chaotic situation that has been developing after the Tuesday earthquake.

One of the big problems is that when help reaches Haiti, until yesterday there was no central distribution center where the help could be sent and redirected from there. Today I learned that our Jesuit novitiate, which is damaged but still standing, has become a distribution center.

As there is no firm authority in the land, there is a danger of bands of unruly youngsters trying to steal and disrupt charitable efforts. In addition, it was reported that 4,000 convicted criminals escaped a local jail when one of the walls came down and they are now free to roam the streets of the capital city.

Please, let us help Haiti by whatever way we can. This is a long-suffering and dignified people who deserve a show of our Christian compassion and generosity in their time of distress.

National Jesuit News is urging people to give to the Jesuit organization Jesuit Refugee Service to help those in Haiti.

To support JRS/USA’s humanitarian response to the emergency needs of the Haitian people, please click here to be directed to their secure website and choose “Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund.”

Or you may send a check to:

Jesuit Refugee Service/USA
1016 16th Street NW Suite 500
Washington, DC 20036

Checks should be made payable to “Jesuit Refugee Service/USA.”
Please clearly note “Haiti Earthquake Relief” in the memo field on the check.

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