DRAYTON, SELWYN passed away peacefully on Tuesday 14th August, 2018. Son of the late Lambert and Emelda Drayton. Husband of Helen Drayton (née Mendez). Father of Michael, Elizabeth and Sandra.
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Fr Louis hoping to make difference in HaitiPeople want tools for survival
Political crisis in Haiti has already claimed the lives of three people and forced Prime Minister Jack Guy La Fontant to resign in the midst of widespread unrest following his failed attempt to increase fuel prices three weeks ago.
Haiti is described as a nation in “crisis” and Father Louis Wesley Mersone told the Sunday Guardian many young people feel a sense of “hopelessness” and are fleeing the country.
Father Mersone runs the ‘Mission to the Beloved’ in Anse-a-Veau, Haiti. The mission aims to spread the word of God in a country where voodoo is still practised and where poverty and destitution run rampant.
“The people are hungry for truth, for power to protect themselves,” he said while in Trinidad last weekend for the annual Jesus Explosion at the Centre of Excellence, Macoya.
Mersone lamented the suffering of the people of Haiti.
“There was a time when we enjoyed a little bit more prosperity in tourism and such, but there are international forces that are unforgiving for such a little country becoming such a leader in the world of freedom,” he said.
He said under the leadership of Toussaint L’Ouverture, Haiti threw off colonial reign and declared independence on January 1, 1804, “the first black Republic and the first nation to be formed by the rebellion.”
But he said Haiti’s development as an independent nation was stymied.
“Haiti has been suffering a lot because even after the war, France forced Haiti to pay what’s called an independence debt of billions of dollars, which Haiti never defaulted on. We have never fully recovered from that and therefore the poverty still grows.”
In 2010, the country was also devastated by a deadly hurricane in which more than a quarter million people died and left a trail of mass destruction. But he said Haiti just does not need to “recover, we need to progress better.”
What the people really need, he said, is “help in a sustainable way, not which makes them more dependent on outsiders, but to make them more responsible as a people in and of themselves because they can work and are hard workers. So if they had the possibility to work, the tools that they need, the seeds that they need to plant, they will do great things with Haiti.”
It is why he said at the cathedral where he is the priest, “we have all kinds of missions, we have discipleship groups, we got Bible study, we got Marian devotions, we have house-to-house devotions and such things just to try to mobilise the people.”
The mission seeks to make a difference to the lives of a suffering people, feeding hungry children, assisting students with tuition fees and helping with the medical needs of those who need help.
“We have lost hundreds of thousands of young people who have gone out of the country either to Brazil or Chile and are looking for work because they realise even if they go to school, they work really hard, they graduate and they still can’t find a job.
“Many can’t afford to go to school because they can’t afford it. And so they don’t have much hope in Haiti’s ability to care for its own properly and that’s a big concern,” he said noting the mission recently sponsored an education for 200 children.
He said his mission does what it can to bring some measure of relief and comfort to thousands of suffering children and families. Describing it as a “trial and error working in Haiti and working with the people,” Mersone said there are some things people respond to more readily than others.
“If you fill up a truck with big sound and you start singing beautiful upbeat songs they will come if you have outdoor missions they will come.”
Apart from the Catholic Church, there are also Protestant sects and the voodoo which Mersone said: “somehow affect the success of the Catholic Church, but we are happy to be there.”
Just before he arrived in Trinidad there were riots in Haiti over the increase in fuel prices.
“It was the straw that broke the camel’s back that radical increase in gas prices,” he said.
He said Haitians had been “warning the government for weeks and months if you dare touch that price at the time of such dire poverty, when so many of us are hungry, when so many of us are suffering, the country will explode and they kept warning.”
But he said in the midst of World Cup euphoria with Brazil playing, noting Haitians love football and love Brazil, the government published the price increases.
“And so boom, the timing was bad and even though the government pulled back they still rioted. That was a sign that yes the price hike contributed to the riots, but they were not the only cause. There are a lot of other grievances that had to be taken care of.”
Many Haitians feel “oppressed” believe there is “too much corruption, there is too much lack of accountability, there is no care for the poor, they feel that those in power don’t have their best interest in mind and there are many other things that they are unhappy with.”
He said his compatriots also feel that no matter who is in power, they are just there to “enrich a small minority of people”.
“They got to the point where they feel they have nothing to lose, and that’s why they riot,” he said.
It was unfortunate “because a lot of private people were impacted and businesses shut down and employees were laid off or turned away because they closed off businesses, so it goes back to hurting them again. So it’s a bad cycle.”
Amidst the hopelessness, Mersone said Haitians continue to search for something to give them hope.
“They know God can change their own lives and make their situations better and so they keep going to Him, praying to Him. They keep begging Him for solutions for everything for the healing of their bodies, for the money to go to school.”
He said his hope is that “God can work a miracle and bring some change. It is imperative, it is necessary, things cannot stay the way they are, some change must happen in order for the people to live in a way that respects their dignity, that is worthy of their dignity as a human person.”
Asked what he thought would bring the required change, he said, “I believe a state in which clear accountability, transparency is present, is necessary for Haiti, absolutely necessary.”
Without transparency and accountability and the strengthening of existing laws, he said things will remain as they are.
“We need a rule of law where people are equal, rich and poor, where everyone contributes, that will be a good place to start,” he said.
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