After a three-day visit to the earthquake ravaged areas of Haiti, a seven-member ecumenical delegation led by the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, has expressed concerns about the role of churches in the reconstruction work of Haiti, the forthcoming elections and the role of the ecumenical movement in the rebuilding of the country.
During the visit, the delegation expressed their solidarity with the victims of the 12 January 2010 earthquake, visited church buildings of various denominations that were destroyed in the earthquake and learned of church projects providing support and relief to the victims of the earthquake.
“It is encouraging to see that life has continued after the earthquake, even though the circumstances are still very difficult,” Tveit noted.
Despite the achievements so far, the delegation expressed some concerns before leaving the country. One of these issues was the role of the churches in the reconstruction work of Haiti.
“As World Council of Churches, we need to be closer to the local churches in our efforts to give assistance to the Haitians,” said Carlos Ham, the WCC programme executive for the Latin America and Caribbean region.
“Many churches have had long-term relations supporting church partners in Haiti,” he continued. “After the earthquake one of the major instruments in channeling the aid by the church community has been ACT Alliance. It is important to continue strengthening these relations and coordination.”
The ACT Alliance is an organisation of more than 100 churches and other member agencies working in long-term development and humanitarian development and is a partner agency of the WCC.
In a meeting on Tuesday evening with Haitian government officials, Ermano Exinor, Member of Parliament and Levaillent Louis Jeune, President of the Chamber, the delegation expressed concern about the effect of current conditions on general elections which are scheduled to take place in November as well as clarifying the roles of the churches in Haiti and of the ecumenical movement in general.
The delegation told the leaders that strong leadership, good governance, justice and integrity are needed now. They said that in addition to responding to specific needs of people, civil society and the churches need to be involved in the reconstruction process.
“It seems that there is money to build houses for the people, but there is no land available. There are schools to be built, but the teachers are not being paid their salaries,” Victoria Kamondji, vice-president of the French Protestant Federation said.
Tveit emphasised that churches have a role in the change Haiti is going through at the moment. “We are the WCC, and it is our task to see what the churches can do together,” he said. “We also need to continue figuring out what we can do together with ACT Alliance and its members and partners and the other local churches in Haiti.”
The delegation also discussed how they can address the global actors, such as the UN, the US, and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and how to get their messages heard. “We need to make our voices stronger, more credible and more effective.” Tveit said.
This can be achieved in co-operation with partners who have global networks and visions for the future, willingness to work for those visions and accountability towards all stakeholders involved, he said.
The involvement of neighbouring countries, such as the Dominican Republic, has been of great value. “Together we can try to find ways to strengthen the fellowship of churches”, said Lorenzo Mota King, the executive director of the Social Services of the Dominican Churches, a member of ACT Alliance, emphasising the commitment of Dominicans in reconstructing Haiti.
After the visit, the delegation said they will continue showing support and promoting prayer for the Haitians. They also want to accompany the ecumenical efforts of the Haitian churches in order to strengthen their voices in this critical moment of the nation and to report the urgent needs of the Haitian churches and population in general to the worldwide ecumenical movement, in order to continue seeking support.