Children's Hope Solidarity Team at MABE Orphanage -- Gressier, Haiti

Children's Hope Solidarity Team at MABE Orphanage -- Gressier, Haiti

Friday, May 29, 2009

Father Gerard Jean-Juste, Father of the Just

Father Gerard Jean-Juste, 1947-2009

Dear Friends,

A moving tribute to a our dear friend Father Gerry... a beautiful human being and an inspiration to all those who seek peace with justice.

In Loving Memory,
Paul B

Father Jean Juste – Father of the Just
by Professor Bell Angelot
translated into English by Ezili Danto, May 27, 2009

(Father Jean Juste was always coupled to what’s just and morally right).

A powerful spirit has left this earth, and our mourning darkens the whole city.
A griot left for eternity and the whole tribe is in tears. But though the
prophet is gone, his light remains. The Haitian community of Miami has just
rung the toll to announce in pain, and in a flood of tears the departure from
this planet of Reverend Father Gérard Jean-Juste. Father Jean-Juste was one of
the pioneers of Liberation Theology alongside Jean Bertrand Aristide of Haiti,
Leonardo Boff of Nicaragua and Oscar Romero of Salvador.

Father Jean Juste was the spoke-person of the poor, the homeless, and for all
who thirst for justice. Father Jean Juste was a megaphone for the victims of
exclusion, those hungry for love, those suffering from the selfishness of
others and inequalities of all sorts. Father Jean Juste was the flag bearer for
Haitian immigrant rights, for those without papers, for those who braved the
shark-infested seas and for whom Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is still
denied. Father Jean Juste was a man of justice, his very name called forth
what’s just.

One can well compare the struggle of Father Jean Juste to that of the biblical
Moses who delivered his people from the persecution of slavery. ("Let my people
go!" Moses said to the Pharaoh of his time). This cry of Moses came often of
the lips of Father Jean Juste, the Prophet from Petite Place Cazeau, Haiti:
“I have certainly seen the affliction of my people, I have heard their cry by
reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows.” (Exodus 3:7).

Father Jean Juste was a martyr. While distributing food to hungry children, he
was arrested and tortured by the political dictators in 2005. Some months
later, even in the deepest bowels of a church, The Sacred Heart Church of
Turgeau, the very same church where Izmery was assassinated, drape in his
priest cassock, Father Jean Juste was brutally beaten almost to
unconsciousness, manhandled and humiliated, afterwards waking up in prison.

Like Jeremiah the prophet, he knew the inside of a prison. Like Martin Luther
King, Jr. he preached love. Like Mahatma Gandhi he lived non-violence and
overcame violence. Just as Moses never reached the Promised Land, he too, did
not see the day of the complete liberation of the Haitian people. The passing
of Father Jean Juste bring us tears, this is a painful severance for us. Of
course, the lost of Father Jean Juste brings us grief, but we believe that
Father Jean Juste lives on.

Again in the years to come, we shall hear, all across Little Haiti in Miami,
the echo of his voice denouncing discriminatory immigration laws. Through time, his voice shall still wholly resound on Haiti, saying no to violence, no to exile, no to arbitrary arrests, indefinite detentions, no to Coup D’etats. Jean Juste lives on and it is now that his butchers will tremble. For without confessing their wrongs and without altering their ways they allowed their victim to die, a man whose heart was filled only with compassion and tolerance.

Father Jean Juste left us on an assignment to meet up with Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr. to whom he shall say that love amongst the races and race equality is
still a dream; to meet up with John Fitzgerald Kennedy to whom he will say that
Democracy and Peace are still the big challenges of our peoples; to meet up
with Father Jean Marie Vincent, to whom he shall say that the movement to bring literacy to our people has fallen by the waste side; to meet up with (Haiti’s founding father) Jean Jacques Dessalines to tell him that our country has been sold, it’s been torn apart, its been bloodied - peyi a vann, peyi a fann, peyi a tonbe nan sann - and we’ve been divided. He is not dead... He lives on!

His body succumbed to the vicissitudes: to pains that even defied science, to evil his heart and his brain could no longer bring order to, to political shocks that his conviction and his morale could no longer endure.

In the name of the larger Lavalas Movement, we bid farewell to Father Gerard
Jean Juste and wish him a good journey. In the name of all the cadres, the
grassroots/popular organizations, in the name of the Lavalas vision of
inclusion, we say thank you Father Jean Juste. Thank you very much
brother/compatriot, we shall continue to be the Sentinels – (to watch out -
veye yo - look out for the enemy).

The Haitian Center of Research and Social Science Investigations, bows in great
reverence, before the remains of the greatest tree (Mapou) to be cut down in
the forest of the just. May your demonstrations of faith, lessons in courage,
messages of patriotism, forever be the oil that lights our lamps to bring the
light in the darkness of realms, serve us all as the chorus of hope, songs of
resistances, hymn of love and friendship. For, as the (Haitian author, Jacques)
Roumain said in his book, Governors of the Dew - "The fruit that rots nourishes
the hope of the new tree."

Professeur Bell Angelot
Directeur du Centre Haïtien
De Recherches et d'Investigations
En Sciences Sociales


Forwarded by Ezili's Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Tragic Loss for Haiti: Father Gerard Jean-Juste, 1947-2009

On a very personal note:

We last visited Father Jean-Juste at his church in Haiti as we dropped off boxes of medical supplies. Below is a photo of him with a few of the hundreds of children he would feed daily. To me, he exemplified the heart of Haiti.

A few years earlier, Paul Burke and I stopped to visit him as he was receiving cancer treatments in Florida. He gave us money to carry to Haiti, so that we could insure the children were fed. When we asked if he didn't need this money for his own medication, he gently shrugged, and said, "I am fine; the children need to eat."

This summer, again, we will return to Haiti. Again we will carry loads of school and medical supplies. And again, somehow, we will manage to stuff in some soccer balls for Father Gerry's children.

-- Leisa Faulkner, Founder, Children's Hope

Father Jean-Juste, Spiritual Leader of Haitian Americans, Dies

Miami Herald, Wednesday, May 27, 2009
The spiritual and political leader of the Haitian community in South Florida died in Miami after suffering a stroke. He was 62.

Rev. Gérard Jean-Juste, the Roman Catholic priest whose passionate, relentless, 30-year human-rights crusade on behalf of his fellow Haitians cast him as their spiritual and political leader in South Florida, has died.

Jean-Juste was a liberation theologist, controversial in both the United States and his homeland, who battled the unequal treatment of Haitian refugees in the federal courts, in Miami's streets and in the media.

He suffered a stroke recently, according to Ira Kurzban, the Miami attorney who represented Jean-Juste's Haitian Refugee Center in several lawsuits against the U.S. government, and died Wednesday evening at Jackson Memorial Hospital. He was 62.

His death apparently was unrelated to the leukemia that Jackson doctors treated three years ago.

''The Haitian-American community has lost a visionary and a central figure who helped to establish the Haitian community in South Florida,'' Kurzban said. ``They lost a. . .friend whose arms and heart were always open.''

Marliene Bastien, executive director of Haitian Women of Miami, called Jean-Juste ``an icon, someone who gave himself wholely, selflessly to others without any need to''self-promote.

'He was the greatest champion of refugees' and immigrants' rights, and he showed that we, as a country, could do better in the way we treat people who leave their native land to come here.''

Bastien said that Jean-Juste ``goes all the way when it comes to defending the rights of the less fortunate. He fights with all his might in the pursuit of justice. He doesn't stop to eat.''

Jean-Juste was an unflinching supporter of ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his Fanmi Lavalas Party. On learning of his death, Maryse Narcisse, a Lavalas leader and spokeswoman for Aristide -- who is in exile in South Africa -- said, ``This terrible, terrible news. A big loss for us.''

Jean-Juste's demands for Aristide's return after a 2004 violent revolution, and his attacks on government corruption, earned him two prison terms in Haiti.

Unafraid to confront anyone, including Church superiors in two countries, he was suspended by the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince -- and prevented from having his own South Florida church by the Archdiocese of Miami.

Some admirers called him ''St. Maverick.'' He once said, ``The taste of freedom for somebody else is a great victory for me.''

Former Aristide government Prime Minister Yvon Neptune has known Jean-Juste since 1965. They exchanged notes from adjacent jail cells after both had been arrested by the interim government of Gerard Latortue.

Neptune remembered how Jean-Juste's passion for Haiti led him to return from Miami to work closely with Aristide's administrations.

''He's going to be missed a whole lot, and he's going to be remembered in a very positive way even by some of his detractors,'' Neptune said in Port-au-Prince. ``Especially. . .in the 1980s, he was very instrumental in having the U.S. government consider the case of the Haitian refugees. He was very much involved in social work not only in helping the Haitians solve their legal problems but in helping them in many ways.''

Born to an unmarried mother, Jean-Juste left Haiti in 1965 to study at a Canadian seminary.

He returned to Haiti briefly after ordination and worked in a remote parish. He left after refusing to sign an oath of allegiance to the government.

He spent time in New York then attended Northeastern University in Boston, where he earned a degree in civil engineering.

In 1971, Jean-Juste became the first Haitian ordained as a priest by the Catholic Church in the United States. The first Haitian ''boat people'' began arriving in Miami the following year.

Initially they were treated the same as other refugees, but that began to change as their numbers grew and government policy shifted.

By 1978, Jean-Juste was running the Haitian Refugee Center in Liberty City -- and calling U.S. immigration policy toward Haitians ``our Holocaust.''

He upset Church officials by conducting funeral services for non-Catholic Haitians who drowned at sea, picketing the Archdiocese of Miami, and calling then-Archbishop Edward McCarthy a racist.

For Jean-Juste, there was only one priority: better treatment for the poor and hopeless.

''Haitian people had no rights in Haiti and they have no rights here,'' he told The Miami Herald in 1980. ``They are starving, they are being separated from their families, they cannot work.''

That year, the Mariel boatlift brought more than 12,000 Cuban refugees to Miami. At the time, the government routinely granted political asylum to Southeast Asians and Central Americans, as well as Cubans, while Haitians were detained indefinitely, sometimes abused, then usually deported.

The government considered them economic, rather than political, refugees, despite having fled the oppressive regime of Jean-Claude ''Baby Doc'' Duvalier.

About 1 percent of those who sought asylum between 1972-1979 won it. Dozens drowned trying to cross 800 miles of ocean in small boats -- some shoved overboard by the smugglers they'd paid.

Many languished in immigration jails for months, sick with anxiety, depression and fear. Many attempted suicide; some succeeded.

Jean-Juste assailed the government's policy as heartless, racist, and in at least one case, criminal. That 1978 case involved an 8-year-old girl locked in a cell for two weeks with 40 adults after she entered the country illegally with her father.

Jean-Juste said she was hysterical when he found her.

The center's volunteer director since July 1978, he was named executive director drawing a $16,000 salary, shortly after rescuing the little girl.

But he was fired in the fall of 1980, several months after calling the Church in Haiti ''a prostitute'' for endorsing Baby Doc's marriage to a divorcee.

He launched The Haitian Refugee Center Inc. as an independent agency on Northeast 54th Street, and continued his fight through lawsuits.

In July 1980, U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King handed Jean-Juste's cause a major victory. He ruled that the Immigration aned Naturalization Service had systematically discriminated against Haitian refugees by issuing sweeping deportation orders, and told INS to conduct new hearings for 5,000 refugees.

''We are very happy,'' Jean-Juste said. ``Judge King is a man of the Constitution.''

''Father Jean-Juste spearheaded all this,'' said Kurzban, the lawyer. ``He provided the political direction. . .He was a tremendous organizer and got people to demonstrate, and that completely changed the dynamic in South Florida.''

Jean-Juste returned to Haiti to work for Aristide. He fell ill with leukemia while behind bars in 2005, charged in the murder of a journalist.

International pressure the following year led a Haitian judge to drop the charge so the ailing priest could seek medical help in Miami.

He still faced what supporters called trumped-up weapons and criminal conspiracy charges. Eventually cleared -- and apparently in remission -- he returned to Port-au-Prince in early 2008, and had been pondering a run for president.

Miami Archdiocese spokesperson Mary Ross Agosta Wednesday night called Jean-Juste ``a man, a priest and the voice of the poor, both here and in Haiti. We pray his commitments in his life will bring him rewards in heaven. May he rest in peace.''

He is survived by two sisters and two brothers.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Change Haiti Can Believe In

Partners In Health and Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti present:

Change Haiti Can Believe In

with Matt Damon, Paul Farmer, Linda Dorcena Forry,
and Brian Concannon, Jr., moderated by Amy Goodman

Obama May Put Paul Farmer in Charge of Foreign Assistance Program!

by Jodi Jacobson, Huffington Post

Dr. Paul Farmer, a founder of Partners in Health, recipient of the MacArthur "genius" award and a long-time provider of and advocate for basic health care for the poor is under consideration by the Obama Administration to head a newly overhauled foreign assistance program, according to sources close to Farmer. He will be meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week to discuss the post.

Farmer, is a world renowned medical doctor, anthropologist and human rights activist, who began his career in the 1980s by bringing basic health care to the poor in Haiti, a country in which he has continued to work for over 20 years. His focus on human rights as an organizing principal for access to health services sets him apart from mainstream development policy and practice. This is in no small part because he often challenges the basic premise of "trickle down" theories inherent in the delivery of much of traditional development assistance, which often uses the rhetoric of human rights without adhering to the principles of a human rights approach to development. "If access to health care is considered a human right," asks Farmer, "who is considered human enough to have that right?"

"Paul has a vision that is grounded what he has learned in Haiti and elsewhere throughout a 20-year development career," said a source close to Farmer speaking on condition of anonymity.

"He has a vision of how to benefit the poor, starting from a principle of truly community-based and sustainable efforts that involve the population and work in collaboration with the local government to achieve real outcomes."

"If this vision could be spread to even part of US foreign assistance, " continued the source, "it would save a lot more lives, and dramatically improve health and improve economic conditions."

Sources close to Farmer also confirm he is in discussion to lead a wholly revised U.S. international assistance strategy, with portfolio over all non-military U.S. foreign assistance, including but not limited to the programs funded by USAID, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Millennium Challenge Account, humanitarian assistance, emergency assistance and potentially food aid. This would be a wholly new position with far broader purview than the current USAID Administrator's portfolio. Such a reorganization would also be in keeping with calls by many advocates who have long criticized the lack of integration within and across health and development programs funded through USAID and other agencies, including the State Department.

Kaiser Network and the Boston Globe reported earlier this week that Farmer had not decided whether he would take the positions, but sources close to Farmer contacted for this article suggested that this weekend he in fact expressed eagerness to take the post if it entails reorganizing U.S. foreign assistance, and if he has widespread grassroots support from the global health community.

And in fact, many health advocates are ecstatic at the prospect of Farmer taking on this role. "This is a precious opportunity for all those who care about the health and well-being of people around the world," said Gregg Gonsalves, an international AIDS advocate and co-founder of the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (a coalition including thousands of advocates and researchers in over 135 countries).

"What better chance to change things for the better than to have Paul at the helm? He is a pioneer in health and human rights."

William Smith, Vice President for Public Policy at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, agrees: "He would be an excellent choice with a strong background in the rights-based area where the U.S. has lost significant ground over the past 8 years."

People who have worked with Farmer underscore that he is also an advocate for sexual and reproductive health and rights. According the one source contacted who asked not to be named,

"The first programs [Paul] started in Haiti focused on women's health. He is a strong believer in women's access to primary sexual and reproductive health services. And while Partners in Health always worked within the law of a given country, and did not provide safe abortions where these were legal, Paul saw and treated botched abortions all the time."

Gonsalves and others have high hopes for Farmer's ability to work across silo-ed programs to ensure that health services are themselves integrated and meet the needs of the poor, while also ensuring collaboration and integration across other portfolios to expand access to safe water, increase food security, and meet other fundamental human needs. While U.S. assistance has long funded programs in these areas, they remain largely uncoordinated and often unconnected, making it difficult to achieve sustainable gains in any given area. Gonsalves and other AIDS advocates contacted for this story underscored that having Farmer overseeing development programs would go a long way toward the recent disappointment caused by less-than-hoped-for-levels of funding for global health programs in the President's 2010 budget.

"Putting Paul in charge is change of the kind we all hoped for," said Gonsalves.

"He represents a new kind of vision for global health, because he is not an insider, not a bureaucrat, not just interested in making incremental changes. He wants to reform the way we fund and measure overseas development going forward. He also understands that AIDS has been a catalyst for change in global health and he realizes that there are positive ways to build on this change."

"If Obama is real about wanting to change the way overseas foreign development is conducted," said Gonsalves, "he will have a willing partner in Farmer."

"Nothing in DC is ever done until it is done," he continued. "But all I can say is that this would be a game-changing appointment, an unprecedented one in my lifetime, and yes, change we can truly believe in this time."

State Department representatives and others in the community could not be reached in time for this posting, but RH Reality Check will continue to update this story as it develops and provide reaction from other sources.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Correa Triumphs in Ecuador

Correa Triumphs in Ecuador, and Thereby Becomes One of Latin America’s Most Successful Political Figures

Ecuadorian President, Rafael Correa, was re-elected yesterday with an impressive 51.7 percent of the vote, in a large field, to serve another term as head of state. Illustrating his widespread popularity in the country, his untainted presidential victory comes as the first such electoral triumph since 1979 that did not require a later run-off vote. His closest contender, Lucio Gutiérrez, managed to command only 28.4 percent of the ballot. Finishing in third with the lowest level of support in his four bids for the presidency, banana magnate, Álvaro Noboa saw his right-leaning electorate seriously dwindle.

It could be argued that Correa is one of the most successful contemporary Latin American political leaders of the era. Since taking office, he has come forth with a very specific socio-political program which has significantly alleviated the country’s political instability and hobbling strategic and economic conditions, while at the same time advancing his overt leftist platform aimed at job creation and lifting the country’s living standards. “Socialism, of course, will continue. The Ecuadorian people voted for that,” he exclaimed after his victory Sunday. “When have we concealed our ideological orientation? We are going to emphasize this fight for social justice…”

Despite having expelled a pair of U.S. diplomats stationed in Quito this year on allegations of their “unacceptable meddling” in Ecuadorian matters, Correa has generally avoided going out of his way to flail at the U.S. At the same time he did not fawn over seeking Washington’s goodwill when he announced that the U.S. lease on the military and anti-drug base at Manta would not be renewed in November. The same cannot be said of his left-leaning counterparts, Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, and Evo Morales of Bolivia, who never avoided exchanging pot shots with the Bush White House, but seem more interested in re-establishing a diplomatic relationship with Washington now that a new incumbent is occupying the White House.

Having been largely effective at maintaining relatively good relations with Washington while still holding his own, Correa appears keen on continuing his social and economic programs. Although he does expend a good deal of time on political dickering and forming non-productive alliances, he is not anything like a regional visionary in the mold of Chávez or Morales. Correa’s pragmatic, hands-on nature and his genuine preference for domestic matters over foreign affairs, and being his own man rather than fabricating a satellite personality is a decided asset. Correa’s feisty performance has improved the myth or reality that the Ecuadorian poor believe that their president has drastically improved the lives of everyday Ecuadorians, including themselves.

This analysis was prepared by COHA Staff
April 27th, 2009