Haiti's Urgent Needs Require Worldwide Ecumenical Support, Say WCC Leaders

After a three-day visit to the earthquake ravaged areas of Haiti, a seven-member ecumenical delegation led by the general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) expressed some concerns about the role of churches in the reconstruction work of Haiti, the upcoming elections and the role of the ecumenical movement in the rebuilding of the country.

During the visit, the delegation expressed their solidarity with the victims of the Jan. 12 earthquake, visited church buildings of various denominations that were destroyed, and learned of church projects providing support and relief to the quake victims.

"It is encouraging to see that life has continued after the earthquake, even though the circumstances are still very difficult," said the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, WCC's general secretary, according to a report by the ecumenical church body.

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Despite the good it witnessed, the delegation expressed some concerns before leaving the country, including the effect of current conditions on general elections that are scheduled to take place in November.

In a Tuesday evening meeting with Haitian government officials, the delegation highlighted the need for strong leadership, good governance, justice and integrity.

They said churches and the civil society need to be involved in the reconstruction process in addition to responding to specific needs of people.

 "It seems that there is money to build houses for the people, but there is no land available. There are schools to be built, but the teachers are not being paid their salaries," Victoria Kamondji, vice-president of the French Protestant Federation, said.

The delegation also discussed how they can address the global players – such as the United Nations, the United States, and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) – and how to get their messages heard.

"We need to make our voices stronger, more credible and more effective," Tveit said.

This, he added, can be achieved in co-operation with partners who have global networks and visions for the future, willingness to work for those visions and accountability towards all stakeholders involved.

After the visit, the delegation said they would continue showing support and promoting prayer for the Haitians.

 They also said they want to accompany the ecumenical efforts of the Haitian churches in order to strengthen their voices in this critical moment of the nation and to report to the worldwide ecumenical movement the urgent needs of the Haitian churches and population in general, in order to continue seeking support.

"We are the WCC, and it is our task to see what the churches can do together," Tveit said. "We also need to continue figuring out what we can do together with ACT Alliance and its members and partners and the other local churches in Haiti."

Members of the seven-person delegation included Tveit; the Rev. Dr Bernice Powell Jackson, WCC president from North America; Gerard Granado, Caribbean Conference of Churches general secretary; the Rev. Nilton Giese, Latin American Council of Churches general secretary; Lorenzo Mota King, ACT Alliance's executive director of Social Services of the Dominican Churches; Dr. Victoria Kamondji, vice-president of the French Protestant Federation; and the Rev. Dr Carlos E. Ham, WCC program executive for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The June 14-16 visit was hosted by the Protestant Federation of Haiti.

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