by Judy Coode, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
The Catholic cathedral in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, stands in ruins, destroyed in the January 2010 earthquake. A glimpse of its past beauty can still be spied in the slivers of stained glass window that cling to crumbling archways.
Even before the quake, the people of Haiti had experienced more than their fair share of suffering: Severe poverty. Grossly inadequate education and health care services. A devastated natural landscape. A shaky national government struggling to find its democratic footing after years of a U.S.-backed dictatorship.
Jim Rice writes in the February 2015 issue of Sojourners, “The nation of Haiti was born out of a rebellion that overthrew one of the most brutal systems of slavery history has seen – creating in 1804 the hemisphere’s second independent republic and the world’s first nation founded by freed slaves. The U.S., wanting to squelch any hopes for freedom among its own enslaved population, saw its Caribbean neighbor as a threat and undercut the fledgling republic at every turn.”
Much (but not all) of Haiti remains in chaos five years after the quake that took hundreds of thousands of lives and left millions homeless; makeshift neighborhoods of shelters made with tarp and tin still stretch across the city. Women and children walk miles every day to collect potable water. Vendors wake before dawn to find a spot on the crowded sidewalk in the hopes that enough customers will buy their fruit or vegetables or other goods so that they can pay their bills…