Haiti “is dying” – according to a leading bishop – who has called on protestors to stop violent demonstrations, which have brought the country to a standstill.
Echoing calls by other Church leaders for the government to act, Bishop Désinord Jean of Hinche spoke out against demonstrators who, he said, were making a bad situation worse.
Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Bishop Jean urged restraint after protests reportedly left 17 dead and nearly 200 injured.
He said: “Destroying the country is not a solution. It is probably a way to express frustration but it is not a solution. We have to find a way to talk.
“People cannot go out. We are enclosed in our homes. All the roads are blocked. Even in urgent cases ambulances or emergency cars cannot move.
“We don’t have fuel. Markets are not functioning. Schools have been closed throughout the country. The situation affects the whole nation.”
He added: “Please pray for us. This country is dying.”
Protests reignited in February and again in September, with demonstrators demanding the resignation of President Jovenal Moïse after accusations of corruption dogged his time in office, which has seen massive inflation and scarcity of goods and other resources.
Bishop Jean said: “80 percent of people in the country are unemployed – and this in a country where 65 percent of the population is young.
“The extreme poverty takes away all hope from people”.
Two men were accused of shooting a third man on Sunday (6th October) to steal his bicycle. A crowd went after the men with machetes and both died.
Bishop Jean criticized the government, saying: “Despite our repeated pleas for nearly two years, Haiti’s politicians remain deaf. In July 2018 we already had a big crisis and the government did nothing.
“But the other political parties should also work on a solution. The worst thing is that the different factions are not open for any dialogue.”
In an open letter on 27th September, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Haiti spoke out against the country’s leaders, saying: “If the country is on fire, it is because of their irresponsibility.”
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and in 2010 an earthquake killed up to 160,000 people. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew killed 1,000.
ACN has over many years provided emergency aid to Haiti, repaired church buildings and given formation to priests and laity.
Bishop Jean said: “I want to thank ACN for your support all over the years. You have been very generous and we know that you love our country. Now we need your prayers.”