Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Three Weeks After Earthquake

HAPI Shalom Zone Update  
Three weeks after Haiti’s devastating earthquake, leaving over 100,000 dead, most structures collapsed, the government in disarray and relief agencies overwhelmed, thinking about a new Haiti has just barely begun. Still, there are reasons for hope and opportunities to witness God’s Shalom in Haiti.  

An editorial in this morning’s New York Times described the horror of old Haiti: “It is a nation of the homeless and the maimed.  Despite a stunning global surge of aid, many survivors still lack water, food and tents.  Thousands sleep outdoors in Port-au-Prince, in terror of aftershocks.  Roads, ports, communications—all in terrible shape before—are shattered….”  (New York Times, Monday, February1, 2010).  The article called for at least four sensible proposals for rebuilding a new Haiti.

1.      Promote Self-Sufficiency through encouraging investments, local product preference for international markets, modernizing agriculture, and other forms of economic development.
2.      Open Up the Countryside  to free up the burden on cities like the capital of PAP. “Well-placed development could enable them to lead sustainable lives in rural areas and new small towns instead of as huddled, jobless urban poor.”
3.      Rebuild (and Maintain) Infrastructure  rather than rebuilding old structures and returning to status quo.  New technology and greener products could be made available for more reliable power and electricity.
4.      Tap the Disaspora   in the USA and Canada.   Granting temporary proteacted status to undocumented Haitians living in the USA, encouraging Haitian immigrants to increase their aid in more creative ways, and even government and private sector paid leaves of absence to allow expats to return and rebuild civil society in their place of birth—would result in significant change.

As the search for survivors ends, media crews move on to other stories, and compassion fatigue sets in, the really hard work of Systemic change, Health and healing, Asset-based community development, community Organizing, Multi-cultural collaboration, in the spirit of God’s Love-in-action—in other words, SHALOM--is the long-term goal and contribution of Communities of Shalom.

A new Shalom Zone in Mizak, Haiti, is already emerging “from the ashes of despair and chaos of our times”—reports Valerie Mossman-Celestin, whose husband and son are Haitian.   They now live in Grand Rapids where Valerie is on staff of the Western Michigan Conference of the UMC, which has a covenant relationship with churches in Haiti.   From Valerie’s base in Michigan, she and her husband return regularly to Haiti to help the small mission project they started in a rural area known as Mizak, about 2 hours outside of Port-au-Prince. 

Haitian Artists for Peace International (HAPI) is the name of the group comprised of gifted artisans, who, with support of their local Methodist church, want to be trained in how to start shalom zones in their now devastated area. The group had contacted the National Shalom Resource Center at Drew University last May to apply for Shalom Training and joining the Shalom network.  As National Director, I had encouraged them to wait until after the National Shalom Summit was over in the Fall 2009, and then we would revisit the possibility in the Spring of 2010.

The Day After the Earthquake rocked Haiti, I called Valerie and suggested that the Time was Now for a Shalom Zone in Haiti! Valerie was already engaged in relief efforts and was able to both continue her group’s emergency response and plan for the long term rebuilding.   Within two weeks she mobilized her leadership team in Haiti and the US, and submitted their application for Shalom Training.  We also received their and request for summer interns and mission teams.  Updates to follow: