Haitians look past the quake toward 'the life ahead' at Easter

Haitians look past the quake toward 'the life ahead' at Easter

By Chris Herlinger
27 Apr 2011

Residents of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, who are recovering from both the devastating 2010 earthquake as well as years of economic pressure and political turmoil, marked Easter 2011 by looking past the rubble that still surrounds many and placing hopes on a better future.

"We can't take in any more of the negative stuff," Victor Nickenson, aged 30, said in an interview with ENInews on Easter Sunday, 24 April, following the Easter morning service at Holy Trinity (Episcopal) Cathedral in downtown Port-au-Prince. "The earthquake is something that has passed. We need to think of the new life, the life ahead."

While it will take years for the cathedral itself to be rebuilt, another cathedral congregant, Romilus Jean Dieudoné, 75, said the physical loss of the cathedral complex – including a school and all but three of the cathedral's famed 14 murals – has begun to mean less and less.

The durability of the congregation itself is what matters the most, he said. "We are the church, not the building," he said, pounding his chest. "And today is the day of re-birth."

Fellow congregant Madame Nicolas Canier, aged 62, agreed. "Jesus Christ has taken victory on this day," she said.

The calm in Port-au-Prince during Easter may be connected with recent political events in Haiti. Uncertainty and worries about the recent return of former presidents Jean-Claude Duvalier and Jean-Bertrand Aristide, one-time lightning rods, proved baseless. Both men have kept low profiles since their respective returns from exile.

And there appears to be much good will toward newly elected Michel Martelly, a one-time singer known as "Sweet Micky," who assumes the Haitian presidency in May. Martelly was elected following a 20 March run-off election in which he won more than 67 per cent of the vote, though just under a quarter of all registered voters cast ballots.

Herode Guillomettre, a Haitian Protestant leader, pastor of the Evangelical Christian Church of Pommier, just outside of Port-au-Prince, and president of the Christian Center for Integrated Development, a humanitarian agency, said in an interview with ENInews prior to Easter that the election of a non-politician like Martelly is "a lesson to the politicians."

"They need to be closer to the people, have their feet on the ground and need to know the realities of the country," he said.

An increasingly younger nation – roughly half of Haiti's population of about 10 million is under the age of 20 – was looking for a leader who did not fit the traditional mould, Guillomettre said. Among Martelly's stated priorities are expanding educational opportunities in a country where only about half of its citizens are literate.

Anne Suze Denestant, aged 26, who lives in one of Port-au-Prince's post-quake tent cities and who lost her right arm in the quake, said the Haitian government had done nothing to help her or her family in the last 15 months. Still, she was taking a neutral attitude towards the new president. "It's still a 'wait and see' time for us," she said. "When they're elected, it's like they promise a lot."

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Chris Herlinger, a New York-based stringer for ENInews (www.eni.ch), is in Haiti on an assignment for the humanitarian agency Church World Service. He is also completing a book, Rubble Nation: Haiti's Pain, Haiti's Promise, to be published later in 2011 by Seabury Books.

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