A Word from Our Pastor 2010 February the Hatian Earthquake

The Haitian Earthquake

Every day on the news we hear about the horrors of the aftermath of
the earthquake in Haiti. Even though this situation was the result of
a natural disaster, most of the suffering is the result of Haiti’s
extreme poverty. For example, poverty and institutional neglect
account for shoddy construction, so that many people were killed or
injured by collapsed buildings. Lack of health care resulted in
preventable deaths, amputations, and complications of injuries.
Before the earthquake, Haiti had only 2 doctors for every 10,000
people!! — how could such medical resources be even marginally
effective in a national emergency, when these resources were already
woefully inadequate? Poor infrastructure meant that the normally
small airport could not be repaired in time to receive the initial
flood of relief supplies — similar conditions at the port meant that
relief arriving by ship was also delayed. Once relief arrived, there
was no delivery system, no local version of the Red Cross ready to
jump into action. No version of trained search and rescue teams to
look for survivors in the rubble. Roads that barely sufficed for
everyday necessities meant that aid was difficult or impossible to
distribute to isolated areas. Yes, it was a terrible earthquake: but
the conditions that existed in Haiti made the aftermath unimaginably
(for us, who live in relative wealth) horrific.

Haiti’s poverty is the legacy of colonialism. The French — like the
English, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch in other places — conquered the
population, extracted their resources and early on established a
economy which enriched Europeans and Americans and enslaved and
impoverished the colonies. (This happened through the so-called
“triangle” slave trade that took European ships to Africa, filled them
with slaves, and sold them in the Caribbean and America, which in
turn shipped cotton and other raw materials grown on plantations back to Europe to be used in manufacturing or for sale). Typically,
Europeans intentionally kept their colonies as backward as possible.
The wealth of colonial America was in large part, created by the
colonization of Africa and the Caribbean: today, we should understand that our wealth and comfort was built on this exploitative
foundation. After colonialism formally ended in Haiti, economic
oppression continued in the form of neo-colonialism, which put into
power leaders who cared little for the welfare of the Haitian people,
and continued the cycle of poverty.

My prayer is that the desperately needed relief will extend beyond the
immediate tragedy of the earthquake, and that we as individuals and
as a nation will commit ourselves to the ongoing rebuilding of Haiti,
so that the Haitian people will be able to have a reasonable standard
of living. As Christians, we know that we are called to help the
“needy,” but this situation extends beyond that simple value. As
Christians, we are called to try to undo the negative results of our
actions (that is, the actions of our forebears) — to attempt to undo
the sins that were committed so that we might benefit. I am
personally grateful that I have this opportunity to try to do my small
part to right this wrong.

Rev. Naomi

P.S. I encourage you to continue to give to Haitian relief through
the United Methodist Church (through our United Methodist Committee on Relief — UMCOR). Unlike most aid organizations that retain a percentage of donations to cover their internal administration costs, UMCOR, will send 100% of your donation directly to relief. Our local church apportionment (an amount based on our budget) is paid to the Annual Conference, which in turn distributes it throughout the church to cover administration costs of all our UM agencies.