Bishop: Let's Build a Better Haiti

Cor Unum Council Says Aid Continually Arrives

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, JAN. 19, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The president of Caritas Haiti is acknowledging that the recent earthquake that destroyed his country’s capital is an opportunity to build a better homeland for Haitians.

Bishop Pierre-André Dumas of the Diocese of Anse-a-Veau and Miragoane affirmed this in a Caritas communiqué, in which he described his experience of the 7.0-magnitude quake that struck Port-au-Prince Jan. 12.

«At the moment it’s all about the emergency,» he said, «but one day the questions will be about reconstruction.»

The prelate continued, «That doesn’t mean rebuilding things as they were before; instead we have a chance to build a better Haiti in which people are at the heart of everything.»

The bishop said that when the disaster struck, he had just returned to Port-au-Prince after visiting parts of his diocese. «Ten minutes after I got out of the car the earthquake happened,» he said.

He continued: «There was a big bang and the house jumped, and I didn’t even have time to get out of the door before everything calmed down.

«Everyone came out onto the street.

«One of the first things I did was to try and contact my staff and reassure them. I told them not to be frightened and that this was a chance to show solidarity and for people to support one another.»

Grieving

«All the people who died didn’t deserve to go so soon,» Bishop Dumas stated. He reported that he himself lost his two-month-old niece as well as his brother-in-law in the quake.

The prelate affirmed: «For those of us left, at the moment there is only pain. This is a test for all of us.

«It won’t last forever, but we have to live through this test with faith so we can come out at the other end more whole.»

He underlined his belief that «our charity and the way in which we live this crisis will help increase our humanity.»

«It will help us be more generous, open and available to each other, because the symbolic ways of living together have been destroyed,» the bishop said.

He explained: «All of the symbols that join us together: the cathedral, the president’s palace, ministries, the schools, religious communities and many more places are in ruins.

«Now we have to build again to be able to live together.»

Bishop Dumas encouraged rebuilding in a way that excludes «prejudice and discrimination» and «in a way that engenders trust,» a «way that gives rise to solidarity and an open spirit.»

He affirmed that this disaster «gives us the possibility to rebuild our country in another way and understand the bond that binds us together.»

Aid response

In a Vatican communiqué released Monday evening, the Pontifical Council Cor Unum affirmed that various Catholic organizations are working effectively to aid the people and rebuild their country.

It stated that Catholic Relief Services, the international humanitarian agency of the U.S. bishops’ conference, has been meeting with the Haitian episcopal conference, the apostolic nuncio and «several foreign Catholic charitable agencies» to «assess and respond to the disaster.»

Last week, the council requested that the relief services agency coordinate the Church’s aid efforts in Haiti.

The communiqué stated that «the group initiated immediately the provision of food, water, clothing, shelter and medical aid for the displaced survivors in informal camps.»

It reported: «Twelve sites have now been jointly determined as distribution points for further provision with security and operational assessments already undertaken.

«Personnel and supplies from neighboring Santo Domingo and other nations continue to arrive through a variety of Catholic aid organizations.»

«As with previous disasters,» the council affirmed, «the concrete generosity of Churches, institutions and individuals worldwide is again being manifested.»

It concluded, «The needs and challenges remain significant, particularly on the level of movement of goods and people and security, and are likely to grow as the effects of the earthquake in and beyond Port-au-Prince become increasingly evident.»

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