HAITI – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is encouraging its members to pray for Haiti, which is facing severe famine, rampant gang violence, and general instability. The United Nations recently warned that, without intervention, more than 100,000 children are at risk of death from starvation.
“The people of Haiti need our prayers,” said Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council. “May God grant peace and healing to this troubled nation. And may He equip the church in Haiti to share the comfort of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed with their neighbours throughout this crisis.”
The ILC has one member church in Haiti: the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti (Église Évangélique Luthérienne d’Haiti – ELCH). In the following report, Rev. Walter Clercius—a pastor of the ELCH—reports on the situation, and explains how the church is holding out hope and practical care amidst so much tragedy.
Brothers and sisters in Christ,
Peace to you from Him who overcame death and the grave and gives that victory to us! I thank God for the privilege He gives me today to write to you.
Today, our country faces many difficulties. Haiti ranks 170th of 189 countries on the 2020 Human Development Index. Out of a population of roughly 11.5 million, more than 1.5 million are highly food insecure, and approximately 4.5 million people did not have enough to eat last year. Today, more than half of the population does not have enough to eat, and more than 25 percent of children are chronically malnourished. Food security continues to deteriorate in rural areas, with the situation for many declining from a crisis situation to a full emergency. Hunger has reached catastrophic levels.
The situation is exacerbated by Haiti’s political crisis, which has continued to worsen following the assassination of our president in 2021. There are now more than 200 gangs operating in Haiti (with half of them in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, according to reports). These gangs have grown dramatically in the past five years. Many of those involved are youths—some as young as 13 years old. The gangs have raped many girls. They kidnap people. They burn and they kill.
Gangs have taken control of the private houses of hundreds of thousands of people in Port-au-Prince. People cannot travel safely in private vehicles from the west to the south or from the west to the north in Haiti. With public transportation, drivers are forced to pay the gangs as if passing through toll booths.
Most of those involved in the gangs are not from Port-au-Prince. They come from other departments in Haiti. Sadly, they are often children recruited from other departments where schools are not operating.
Given this situation, it is not surprising that the economic situation in Haiti is bleak. People from rural areas cannot send their products to sell in Port-au-Prince. Nor are there many jobs. Inflation has risen to 49.3 per cent. Universities and schools have been forced to terminate their contracts with employees. Businesses are likewise closed and have sent their employees home; they cannot pay them. Many children in Port-au-Prince cannot go to school. There are riots. The price of gas has more than doubled; and when the price of gas goes up, the price of everything goes up—all while the salaries of those still employed stagnate. Even teachers become poor; they cannot afford to eat.
Facing such hardship, many people—especially youth and professionals—continue to leave the country. They go to the United States, Canada, France, Brazil, Chili, or the Dominican Republic. Some cross borders illegally. But faced with hunger, riots, misery, insecurity, and disease, many Haitians do not know what else to do.
But there is hope in Haiti. Haiti has a rich history. It was the first free black republic in the world—the mother of freedom. Our present situation is so sad. But there are many Haitians who love Haiti and are working hard to see change the country and make a difference in the lives of other Haitians. There are many Haitians who are educated. Many Haitians who are Christians. There are many children who are being raised with faith in Christ, and learning ethics, morality, and civility.
I believe that the Gospel and education can contribute to change in our country for a better future. We must continue to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to educate our children. With such a foundation, they will become good citizens for Haiti. They will contribute to change in our country. They will contribute to bring peace in the world.
In my region of the Central-Plateau, people also face economic problems but we are not experiencing the same insecurity. Praise God, our children in the Central-Plateau can still go safely to school. With access to education, they will not be so easily drawn into the gang violence and modern slavery which has overtaken Port-au-Prince. They will become professionals, pastors, teachers, engineers, nurses. Our children receive formation in morality, ethics, and civility. We continue to preach the Gospel of Him who overcame death and the grave.
Today, I am working in twelve Lutheran churches/schools and eight preaching stations and affiliated churches in the Central-Plateau. In this region, we count around 7,000 Lutherans: 2,000 adults and 5,000 students. In the future, we are praying that number might grow to 12,000 Lutherans in our churches and schools in the Central-Plateau. This will require at least 20 Lutheran ordained pastors for 12 churches and preaching stations. That’s why we are currently training more than 70 seminarians through online classes. Our professors are Haitian, American, Canadian, and French.
I have already noted that we are educating more than five thousand children in the Central-Plateau. An important aspect of this work is our feeding program through Trinity Hope. Through this program, we provide regular meals for students, many of whom do not receive any food at home because their parents are out of work. We are grateful for the assistance of fellow Christians in the United States who are supporting this program and making a difference in the lives of thousands of families.
After the proclamation of the Gospel, education plays the most important role in the healthy development of our children. Boys involved in school have a significantly reduced chance of being drawn into a gang. Girls involved in school have a reduced chance of becoming pregnant while still young teenagers.
Like you, we in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti value truth, grace, unity, vocation, sanctity of life, trust, and relationships. Thank you for your continued prayers. May God continue to bless you.
Rev. Walta Clercius
First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Laotchikit (Central-Plateau, Haiti)
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti