By Manuel Padilla and Amy Watts, Program Associates
SAKALA 17-year old soccer team

As a result of the exciting, recently-developed collaborative projects with Pax Christi Port-au-Prince, Pax Christi USA is currently engaged in the production phase of a short promotional documentary on the SAKALA youth peace education and soccer program.  Starting on April 2nd and ending on April 15th, Pax Christi interns Amy Watts and Manuel Padilla are in Port-au-Prince working with Elaine Briere, writer and director of “Bitter Paradise: The Sell-Out of East Timor,” crafting footage to help us better relate to and understand the lives of the SAKALA youth of Cite Soleil.  We hope this film will educate us and inspire us to challenge stereotypes and reflect deeper on the day-to-day hopes, joys, and obstacles of our brother and sister peacemakers in Port-au-Prince.

First Report, April 6

Cite Soleil has a unique history and culture within Haiti and Port-au-Prince. This also gives rise to its special vulnerabilities, struggles, and successes.  Among dignified people, we find an impoverishment within a politically and economically-manipulated country.  This is condensed and centralized, by design, in Port-au-Prince and epitomized by Cite Soleil.  The Earthquake of 2010 did not bring about this but only greatly exacerbated it.  Yet can we even tell now, one year later, what devastation was caused by the earthquake, what by neglect, what by foreign and domestic economic polices, what by MINUSTAH occupation, what by dictatorships, what by preceding natural disasters, what by political and social upheaval, what by NGO colonization, and what by a sense of defeat?

We see life has continued in the face of this tragedy where it is unknown how much hope resides in the average heart.  We see the earthquake ‘opportunized’ in both positive and negative ways.  We see the results of a highly questionable elections process amidst a seemingly intractable paralyzation of systems creation, planning and decision-making, and action to address the historical and contemporary dilemmas facing the country.  Lack of water, lack of shelter, lack of economy, lack of tools, lack of political stability, lack of security, lack of respect from others ‘outside’ and ‘inside’.  We see Cite Soleil.  We find no disingenuousness.  No veil of ignorance.  No barrier of communication.  We are confronted with raw trauma and fragile recovery.  Here, too, there exists a slow realization that old methods and old relationships are no longer relevant or effective, if they ever were to begin with.  Old threats are new friends. Community means playing together with a seriousness and urgency unknown to those whose lives do not vitally depend on the interconnected realities that bring such seemingly disparate things as recreation and survival together.

In light of where Haiti finds itself now, we are compelled to notice the Pax Christi Ayiti SAKALA youth peace and sports program on the edge of Haitian society; their garden, their self education, their play, their organization, their practice and practicality, their silence in uncertainty and despair, their voice, their smallness and their struggle, their successes, their thriving.  We hope to show how sports and peace has gripped their lives, and the lives of those around them, in new and intimate ways that have provided hope for sustainability and dignity, not just simple survival.  We hope to show how an alternative assessment of their reality has prompted them to a radical reevaluation of their community of Cite Soleil and their critical role in the future of Haiti.  By braving the beautiful risk inherent in the philosophy of non-violence and peace with justice, carved out by icons like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, and Oscar Romero, they wish to image a culture of the peace of Christ and embody the invitation to ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’.

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