Three months in Haiti


Nippes Department, Anse à Veau Diocese, Maragoâne : paradoxes

One of the brothers of Taizé living in Brazil has just spent three months in Haiti.

The waters of the Caribbean wash this end of the island whose mountain ranges with their treeless slopes and difficult access leave little room for the plains. Thirty or forty years ago, Miragoâne, administrative centre with some 50,000 inhabitants was the finest part of the country. Today, with its continual water shortages and power cuts, its garbage, its lack of timetables, it owes its survival to humanitarian aid that arrives by boat or by truck. Whenever you leave the shore, the land becomes rocky and quickly starts rising. The goats know how to take advantage of all that a city leaves as refuse in its wake.

In the commercial streets of the lower town street vendors ply their trade. Clothes, shoes, electrical equipment intermingle as they move around. Plates of cooked food are sold at every hour of the day. An astonishing harmony of anarchic accents. One single jarring note in all this: the military trucks of the United Nations and the brand new heavy vehicles of the international organizations.

A white person who, in addition, always goes on foot quickly becomes an attraction for black people living in the street. The children quickly get on well with them. There is no shortage of hugs.

The concern of the bishop, Mgr Pierre Dumas, in inviting a Taizé brother to spend some time in Haiti, was to provide follow up to the time spent in Taizé by young people he had sent there last summer; so that the benefits of their stay should not remain a dead letter. So together we got down to the job of setting up “a ministry for small children” on the model of what Dr Zilda Arns initiated in Brazil with the aim of reducing infantile mortality and preserving the health of the mothers. This courageous woman was struck down by the January 2010 earthquake as she was giving an address in Port-au-Prince.

Little by little, through the contact with the most helpless people, a discovery impressed itself on me. Isaiah 50.4 set me on a way to which I come back constantly: The Lord God has given me a disciple’s tongue, for me to know how to give a word of comfort to the weary. Morning by morning he makes my ear alert to listen like a disciple.

Letting yourself be taught each morning by his word, in order to find a word or a gesture that gives courage to those who cannot go on any longer: it is the way of obedience, of self-abasement and offering that I was in the act of following as I offered help and attention to men and women burned out by suffering. In an instant, their eyes lit up and, without their realizing, it was they who became for me the word that comforts, the living Christ, sacrament that gives itself to me.

Paradox of the Pascal Mystery: I dispense care to those who have reached the end of their tether, and it is they, the Body of Christ, who give themselves to me. My soul is filled with joy and my tears flow. I am overwhelmed to know that his grace is eager to transform me right into the recesses of myself that have never been flushed out. Could I keep this joy for myself?

Last updated: 4 June 2011