Thursday, March 29, 2007

Prayer of Saint Francis

Lord make me
an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred,
Let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, Joy.
O divine Master grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled
As to console;
To be understood,
As to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
And it is in dying that we are
Born to eternal life.

Just think if everyone who had any interaction with the Haitian people said this prayer each morning. It would render so much good will and positive actions. There would be so little time wasted with nonsense that keeps the people poor and voiceless. Haitian people would be educated, paid well, and could drink clean water. None of the gran mange anywhere in the world would suffer---they would benefit. The slums could be torn down and Haiti's "boat people" wouldn't want to leave the Pearl of the Antilles. Who would want to?

MINUSTAH could go home and the Diaspora could come back. And the streets of Port-au-Prince could be safely walked in at night.

Why is this so difficult?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Deafening Cry

(Father Gerry Jean-Juste with parishoner at St. Clare's Church, Port-au-Prince, 2005.)

Perhaps the single most significant event to give impetus to the rise of liberation theology was the Second General conference of Latin American Bishops that met in August of 1968 in Medellin, Colombia. This meeting has been called the “Magna Carta” of liberation theology.

One of the documents on poverty from this conference, written by the bishops, stated the following:

“The Latin American bishops cannot remain indifferent in the face of the tremendous social injustices existent in Latin America, which keep the majority of our peoples in dismal poverty, which in many cases becomes inhuman wretchedness. A deafening cry pours from the throats of millions of men, asking their pastors for a liberation that reaches them from nowhere else.”

According to the documents from Medellin, the situation in Latin America was characterized by “institutionalized violence,” “unjust structures,” “internal colonialism,” and “external neocolonialism.” Together these amount to a “sinful situation” that leaves the Latin American countries dependent on the economic centers of power. In light of this situation, the bishops called for “ an all embracing, courageous, urgent, and profoundly renovating transformation.” The Church was called to “create an eminently Christian task.” The bishops commit the Church to a program of a “new society” in which the human person is “an agent of his own history.” The Church was encouraged to carry Christ’s message of liberation to the poor by becoming a poor Church, by being in solidatrity with the poor and giving “preference to the poorest and most needy sectors.”

In 1971 Gustaveo Gutierrez’s book was written. “A Theology of Liberation” remains the classic statement of the ecclesiological issues at stake in the rise of liberation theology. Critics charged that liberationists were guilty of reducing Christianity to a political ideology—in effect attending to this world while ignoring more “spiritual” concerns proper to the world to come.

Gutierrez wrote in an essay after publication of his book the following:

“One of the oldest themes in the theology of liberation is the totality and complexity of the liberation process. This theology conceives total liberation as a single process, within which it is necessary to distinguish different dimensions or levels: economic liberation, social liberation, political liberation, liberation of the human being from all manner of servitude, liberation from sin, communion with God as the ultimate basis of a human community of brothers and sisters.”

Jon Sobrino, a Jesuit priest in El Salvador, was recently criticized (2007) by the Vatican. Fr. Sobrino is a Spanish born priest and a well known proponent of liberation theology. The Vatican explained, “Father Sobrino manifests a preoccupation for the poor and the oppressed, particularly in Latin America. This preoccupation certainly is shared by the whole church.” The Vatican stated that the church cannot express its preferential option for the poor through “reductive sociological and ideological categories.”

Sobrino has written, “There is terrible injustice in today’s world, one which, slowly or quickly, brings the great majority of humanity closer to death. Justice and truth, therefore, are fundamental and urgent demands.”

According to liberationists, justice is the key concept for the Christian conscience of our day; the promotion of justice is the essential requirement of the Gospel message today. Gutierrez writes, “When justice does not exit, God is not known; God is absent.”

So maybe God IS absent in Haiti. Maybe God is not known here because there sure is very little justice in Haiti.

There also is no justice for Haiti’s Fr. Gerry Jean-Juste. The very priest who lived his life standing up for the poor, and feeding the poor in his parish, is in “exile” once again in Florida. His story is well known. Haiti and his parishioners really need him back.

The aging Latin American priests philosophy of preferential option for the poor wasn't wrong. It is the right and fair thing to do. But when the Jean-Justes of the world are terrorized and shackled and marginated and condemned of crimes they didn’t commit, the poor don't have any option. And when the Church leaders themselves don’t advocate for Jean-Juste, the injustice continues. Ignoring Jean-Juste is ignoring Haiti's "deafening cry" today.

Does this young boy pictured below, living with his family in rural Croix-du-Bouquets, look like he has many options?

(See "Liberation Theology After the End of History--The Refusal to Cease Suffering", by Daniel M. Bell, Jr.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Disorderly Parts

"We carve out order by leaving the disorderly parts out."

William James

Toussaint Louverture

"Does anyone think that men who have enjoyed the benefits of freedom would look on calmly while it is stripped from them? They bore their chains as long as they knew no better way of life than slavery. But today when they have left it, if they had a thousand lives they would sacrifice them all rather than to be again reduced to slavery....We knew how to face a danger to win our liberty; we will know how to face death to keep it."

Toussaint Louverture

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Aristide and Education

"Previous governments (in Haiti) never seriously tried to invest in education, and it's clear that our program was always going to be a threat to the status quo. The elite want nothing to do with popular education, for obvious reasons. Again it comes down to this: we can either set out from a position of genuine freedom and independence and work to create a country that respects the dignity of all of its people, or else we will have to accept a position of servile dependence, a country in which the dignity of ordinary people counts for nothing. This is what is at store here."

President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, 2006

Friday, March 23, 2007

The First Class Parking Deck

The Peoria Journal Star had an article on March 21, 2007 regarding OSF’s new parking deck. It is an 1,800-spot visitor and patient parking deck. The article reports it is the largest parking deck in Peoria. The deck’s features will include valet service that includes free paring and shuttle cart transportation to the main buildings, as well as heated and air-conditioned stairwells.

The new parking deck costs $37 million dollars. This will accompany the Milestone Project which is OSF’s new 440,000 square foot expansion which will cost $234 million dollars. This Project will include an eight story building with a new Children’s Hospital, as well as an adult cardiac unit, and new emergency and surgery departments.

It is Peoria’s largest building venture ever.

Chris Lofgren, OSF’s spokesman stated, “One of our goals is to eventually have all private rooms. He also noted that OSF is one the verge of acquiring a FOURTH helicopter.

Now consider this:

1. OSF continues to reject former Haitian Hearts/OSF patients for surgery with partial or complete funds offered for their surgeries by Haitian Hearts.

2. Revenues for OSF are in excess of 1.5 billion dollars per year.

3. Revenues for the entire Republic of Haiti in 2003, with a population of 8.3 million people, was less than $300 million dollars.

4. There is approximately 1 physician/6000 people in Haiti’s rural areas. There is 1 physician/400 people in the United States. 40% of Haiti's population has no access to primary health care.

5. Haiti has the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the western Hemisphere. Haiti is located 90 minutes from Miami by air.

6. 25% of Haitian children are chronically malnourished.

7. Only 50% of Haitian children are vaccinated with the standard vaccines.

8. 75% of births in Haiti are accompanied by non-qualified personnel.

9. There are many Haitian children born with congenital heart disease or who acquire rheumatic heart disease and need surgery. Cardiac surgery is not routinely done in Haiti and never done through the Haitian government for charges that the poor can afford. Serious heart disease in children and adults is virtually a death sentence.

The Journal Star article ended with Lofgren stating that while OSF works on its new project, visitors and patients can enjoy the new deck and its valet services.

“Because of the size of (the deck), it is the right thing to do,” Lofgren said beaming. “This is first class, all the way.”

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The "Brutal" Society?

In my opinion, Haitians are very patient people. They suffer everyday in all ways imaginable. I wonder how North Americans would act in the same horrific circumstances. I wonder how I would act.

Fifty years ago Haitian writer Jacques Stephen Alexis wrote a book "Compere General Soleil" (General Sun, My Brother). Alexis described a neigborhood in Port-au-Prince in the following fashion:

"In this neighborhood, everbody lived on the street. The people were simple, plain and generous. But when you touched what was theirs, they fell into a rage. Misery had made them intractable on that. They lived on the borderline between instinct and intelligence. They were the products of a society that brutalizes people to a level of semi-animal existence, oriented towards their immediate and constant concern: food. Everything was transformed or deformed by an empty stomach; love, pride, willpower, and tenderness. Lit up by the naked sunlight, their only entertainment was the theater, music hall and cinema of the bustling, noisy street....What other joy could they take in life except to laugh excessively at anything---the quarrels, the street and the fleeting intoxication of a few popular holidays." (Notes from the
Last Testament--The Struggle for Haiti, Michael Deibert).

I wonder what Alexis would write if he strolled through La Saline or Cite Soleil today?

The main stream media enjoys depicting the brutality in Haiti. However, poverty causes hunger and hunger causes desperation. And I have seen much more laughing in Haiti than brutal people. Doesn't that say something good and admirable about the Haitian people?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Food Insecurity Equals Madness

I call it the "belt sign". At a well-known tuberculosis hospital in Port-au-Prince, when men get on the scales to be weighed, their leather belts frequently wrap all the way around to the middle of their backs. They are not only sick--they don't have enough to eat. And many have AIDS.

In Haiti and many "developing" countries, starvation and malnutrition are hurting the fight against AIDS. Food is replacing drugs as the biggest need.

The Associated Press reported that the "U.N. World Food Program has launched nutrition programs in Haiti and 50 other countries with the worst HIV rates, providing monthly food supplements for patients and their families. Without adequate nutrition, AIDS suffers cannot absorb the drugs needed to slow the virus.

"Worldwide, an estimated 3.8 million people with AIDS needed food support this year, possible rising to 6.4 million by 2008, according to the World Food Program."

The British journal HIV Medicine had a study that concluded hungry people are six times more likely to die when taking AIDS medication than those with good nutrition.

Can you imagine not providing enough to eat in the developed world for people that were suffering from AIDS? The Associated Press article stated that Stephen Lewis, special U.N. envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, called the lack of funding for food (for people with AIDS) "madness". Health workers in the "developing" world must view food security as being no less important to a person's health than the right drugs and regular checkups.

(The young lady pictured has AIDS and lives in Cite Soleil. She doesn't get enough to eat either.)

"God comes to the hungry in the form of food."
Mahatma Ghandi

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Mountains Behind Mountains

"In Haiti they have a saying, "deye mon gen mon". Beyond the mountains there are more mountains--a beautiful expression, not only of hope and struggle, but of lineage, of history, of ebbing of tides, the passing of clouds and breaths of thick wind covering the mountain ranges. They also have another saying. Bay kou, bliye. Pote mak, sonje. The one who gives the blow, forgets. The one who suffers the hurt, remembers." (Notes from the Last Testament--The Struggle for Haiti, Michael Deibert)

The man in this photo was patiently seated in the waiting room at Saint Catherine's Hospital in Cite Soleil in January. Just one hundred yards from him were young men running with guns, tires were burning in the street, and MINUSTAH was on their daily hunt. And this was at noon.

How much more can the Haitians take? People outside of Haiti like to characterize the Haitians as tough. They are tough but not tough enough if you look at their infant and maternal mortality rates, and their life expectancy, and stare in their faces as they strangle on their blood coughed from their tubercular lungs.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Haiti Breaks Everyone's Back

This Haitian boy has Pott's disease. He has tuberculosis of the vertebral bodies in his thoracic spine which causes the bone to become infected and collapse. He will be a "hunchback" forever.

Whenever there is a case of PEDIATRIC tuberculosis in a community it means that there is an unidagnosed case of ADULT tuberculosis. As a rule, children are noninfectious, but adults are. Such is the case in Haiti where tuberculosis runs rampant in the adult and pediatric populations.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Archbishop Romero

"A Church that doesn't provoke any crises, a Gospel that doesn't unsettle, a Word of God that doesn't get under anyone's skin, a word of God that doesn't touch the real sin of the society in which it is proclaimed--what Gospel is that?"

Archbishop Oscar Romero

(The baby in the wheelbarrow is just outside the entry to St. Catherine's Hospital in Cite Soleil. St. Catherine's is a very small hospital and the only hospital serving 300,000 people in Soleil.)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

John Carroll's Posts

In December, 2006, and January, 2007 I posted about 25 posts on a local blog in Peoria. I have compiled those posts and they can be found at John Carroll's Posts.

Most of the titles are highlighted and link back to the blog where comments follow the posts.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Was This Child Worth Four Dollars?

HIV is gobbling up millions of children in the developing world. They either have AIDS or are orphaned by AIDS.

This Haitian boy has AIDS. Whether he will actually receive HAART or important prophylactic antibiotics is difficult to know. For many reasons, Haiti is not patient friendly right now.

A recent study stated that if the drug neviparine is given to the HIV positive mothers during labor and their babies are given neviparine during the first 72 hours of life, 1000 babies per day around the world could avoid AIDS.

Many HIV positive Haitian mothers will deliver this week in Haiti. The cost for treating mother and baby is four dollars US. It is very cost effective medicine. How many will actually receive this medication this week?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Rights of the Child in Haiti---Where are They?

About 16 years ago the UN advanced the cause of children by launching the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The CRC contains 41 articles relevant to children. The reality is that in most countries of the world, including Haiti, children suffer hugely because their rights are neglected.

The impetus for the CRC was the needs of children: not only basic physical needs, but also emotional nurturing, social support, good health-care, and education. Hardly a politician or governmental leader in the world would deny the importance of these issues, but environmental and socioeconomic factors hindering change—such as poverty, disease, and corruption need to be eliminated.

Children in Haiti suffer from parents with very little money in their pockets, poor or no education, insufficient amounts of clean water, lack of basic medical care, fragmented families, and violence. In my opinion, from what I see when I examine kids in the slums, they are not doing well. Their affect is flat, they are too docile, and many are unhappy because their stomachs have little inside. Many are very ill and too weak to cry.

HIV is a big problem also. HIV drugs are available in Haiti for poor children, but in my experience difficult to obtain. Maybe I am not trying hard enough to obtain these medications for these kids and families that have no chance without an advocate.

The Lancet (February 25, 2006) discussed the role of HIV and its direct and indirect consequences for children:

1. Babies born to women infected with HIV, even if not infected themselves, have higher mortality rates and developmental problems than their peers, because of compromised parenting of stressed, ill, and dying mothers.

2. Such children are placed at risk of malnutrition and poor maternal-infant bonding by HIV prevention programmes that encourage early discontinuation of breastfeeding.

3. Older children are involved in caring for sick and dying parents with little outside help and in conditions of poverty, where clean water and adequate sanitation are rare commodities.

4. There are 15 million children globally who have lost one or both parents to AIDS.

5. The economic and social effects of HIV/AIDS on children include malnutrition, poverty, neglect, migration, and homelessness. I witnessed all of these every day in clinic. This increases their vulnerability to a range of consequences including illiteracy, poverty, child labor, sexual and other forms of exploitation, HIV infection, and unemployment in adulthood.

6. Psychological effects are depression, guilt, and fear, possibly leading to long-term mental-health problems.

7. In Haiti public assistance for the most vulnerable people is largely non-existent. The Haitian government is not really concerned with the article in the CRC that states that the Haitian government shall support parent substitutes in the responsibility of raising children. Orphanages in Haiti are in a state of disarray.

8. The crisis that children who are affected by HIV/AIDS are facing remains hidden in the slum where hardships of individual children, and those who care for them, go unnoticed. The economic burden to care for these children is borne by those least able to afford it---the households that care for these children, not the government.

9. Guaranteeing the rights of ALL children who live in communities affected by AIDS is more beneficial than singling out specific groups. Systems-based responses are justified by the large numbers of children involved, whose health and well being are affected by poor living conditions and limited access to services. A continuum of responses is needed with help for the extremely vulnerable population of children, and—at the other end—better access for all children to health, education, and welfare provision.