HAITI: Ecumenical delegation expresses solidarity towards Haitians

June 16, 2010

In an effort to express solidarity and learn of churches' work in providing support and relief to victims of the Haiti earthquake, the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), is visiting Haiti, accompanied by an ecumenical delegation of six church leaders from different parts of the world.

"I feel honored to be here," said Tveit. "For me, it is important to see and listen to the Haitian people and to see how the churches can respond to their needs in a meaningful way."

Sylvain Exantus, the president of the Protestant Federation of Haiti said that "the presence of the ecumenical delegation here in Haiti is one sign of that solidarity."

"It is significant that the Haitians themselves are involved in all reconstruction work," said Tveit after visiting the Norwegian Church Aid's (NCA) project in the red zone area of Bel Air on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. The red zone marks those regions that were most severely damaged by the earthquake.

Environmental activities, such as rain-water harvesting, bio-gas digesters and planting of trees, are some of the specialties of the NCA project.

"Since Bel Air is considered a red zone area, we have started our green roof projects to change this to a green area," Bruno Nadalutti, assistant manager of Viva Rio, the local partner of NCA, told the delegation.

So far, Haitians have planted approximately 30,000 trees to address the concern of the deforestation of Haiti. They are hoping to plant one million trees next year.

"They are not just receivers of aid, but they have taken the responsibility on themselves. Even in a situation like this, they continue their lives," said Tveit.

"It will take a long time until we can see the change," said the Rev. Bernice Powell Jackson, president of the World Council of Churches from North America and a member of the delegation.

She compared the situation with the devastation in New Orleans where Hurricane Katrina hit nearly five years ago.

Haitian people themselves have not lost their hope as they try to survive in a variety of different ways.

"We met several people in the camps who try to earn their living with their small businesses so they can afford their food and school fees for the children," said Victoria Kamondji, a delegation member and vice-president of the French Protestant Federation.

The ecumenical delegation will also visit church buildings of different denominations that were destroyed in the earthquake. They will pray together with leaders of churches in Haiti and discuss with them what it means to be the church together in Haiti today.