Back from Haiti

Jeremy and I are back from our week in Haiti, Even after spending time in the war-torn north of Uganda, Haiti managed to shock and sadden us.

The name sounds almost enchanting…Cite Soleil.
The name means “City of the Sun.”
But even under the stunningly bright Caribbean sun,
Cite Soleil is a dark and dangerous place,
a slum so wretched few outsiders enter it.
More than a quarter million people
are crammed in the three square miles
that make up Cite Soleil.
They live in rusting peak-roofed tin shacks.
Open sewers and the stench of rotting garbage
intensifies the brutally ugly reality.
Kids run around naked or in tattered clothes
and many of them
have never been to school.
People are so hungry
they eat pies made of clay and dirt.
Pigs rummage through the rubbish
in search of food.
People are sometimes forced
to give up their kids to servitude
because they can’t afford to feed them.
When it rains at night,
the rain seeps into the shacks
and the poor sleep in the mud.
Woman and children
squat in the rancid, insect-infested rubbish
to defecate and urinate.

And if all of that is not bad enough,
Cite Soleil is riddled with
unbridled violence.
Guns and gangs rule the slum.
People are decapitated or burned alive
for opposing the neighborhood
gang leader.
Death is in the air.

The residents of Cite Soleil
live in the shadows.
The grinding poverty and
desperate daily search for food
have left them literally numb
to the normal aspects of life.

Nearly twenty years ago,
a man walked into this
nightmare under the sun,
a gentle, humble, funny man
from Philadelphia.
A former chaplain at Princeton University,
he seemed ill-suited
by temperament and training
to be a beacon of hope
in such a hopeless place.
His name is Fr. Tom Hagan.
He is a member of the
Oblates of St. Francis de Sales.
Fr. Tom is the embodiment
the luminous force of
intentional kindness and compassion.

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