Catholic cardinal says Haiti’s ‘catastrophic situation’ led Haitians to U.S. border

Courtney Mares   By Courtney Mares for CNA

Haitian Cardinal Chibly Langlois speaks during a Caritas Internationalis webinar, Sept. 21, 2021. / Screenshot.

Rome Newsroom, Sep 23, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Cardinal Chibly Langlois has said that the “catastrophic situation” in Haiti caused by poverty, violence, and natural disasters has led to Haitians seeking asylum at the U.S. border.

The Catholic cardinal, who was injured in Haiti’s recent earthquake, is also a leader in the recovery efforts for the island nation facing the consequences of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake, aggravated by widespread poverty and gang violence.

“The people of Haiti are suffering, believe me,” Langlois said on Sept. 21.

The Haitian cardinal spoke in French with live interpretation into English at a webinar organized by Caritas Internationalis in Rome.

Thousands of migrants from Haiti encamped in Del Rio, Texas on the U.S.-Mexico border this week.

The Biden administration responded by bringing more federal personnel to the border, placing many Haitians on expulsion flights, and busing others to immigration processing centers in El Paso and Laredo, Texas.

The Washington Post reported Sept. 22 that the U.S. government is preparing to nearly double the number of Haitians being deported from Texas to Haiti.

Meanwhile, Mexico has offered asylum to 19,000 Haitians so far this year, according to the Associated Press.

Langlois, 62, became the first Haitian to become a Catholic cardinal in 2014. He said that Catholics in Haiti are on the frontlines serving those in need as they suffer themselves.

“The Church is present practically everywhere in the country. Wherever you look around the country — where poverty is rife, where violence is spreading, where catastrophes take place — the Church is present and the church is a first responder,” Langlois said.

“But the church also suffers because we too are a victim of these natural catastrophes.”

At the webinar, Cardinal Langlois launched an appeal to all his Catholic brothers and sisters, as well as all people of goodwill, to come to the aid of Haiti to help the country emerge from the serious poverty that made the country susceptible to more damage when natural disasters strike.

In Haiti, 1.5 million people are in need of assistance after the earthquake, the cardinal said.

“And the entire world speaks about the poverty in Haiti,” he said, repeating that the natural disasters combined with the widespread poverty has created a “catastrophic situation” in the Caribbean state.

The cardinal also thanked people for their prayers after the earthquake.

“Yes, I was a victim during the earthquake, and I can tell you that to see something falling all around you is something quite breathtaking. And to escape … is another miracle,” Langlois said.

The 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti about 90 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince on the morning of Aug. 14. It was stronger than the 2010 earthquake from which the island is still recovering.

The earthquake killed at least 2,207 people with more than 12,260 people sustaining injuries, according to a USAID report published on Sept. 7.

Two days after the quake, Tropical Storm Grace made landfall in Haiti overnight, flooding the country with as much as 15 inches of rain in a single day in certain areas.

More than 100,000 homes were destroyed, as were at least seven churches. A Catholic rectory in the diocese of Les Cayes, where Cardinal Langlois serves as bishop, was severely damaged causing three fatalities: one priest and two employees.

Haiti has also been battling a spike of gang violence and kidnappings for ransom this year.

The Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince said in a statement in April that gang violence had reached “unprecedented” levels in the country.

“Now the church of Haiti, in effect, is very much in the frontlines considering the situation we live in the country today. You’ve got ongoing violence, attacks, a considerable amount of stress,” Langois said

The Haitian president Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in his home in July by a group of gunmen.

The violence has also directly touched the Church. Ten Catholic leaders were kidnapped in Haiti on April 11 by one of the several criminal groups operating in the country.

Four Haitian priests and a nun as well as one French priest and one nun were among the kidnapped, who were not released by their captors until April 30.

“This earthquake struck a country that was hard hit by COVID-19 and in an economic crisis, and in a political crisis after the assassination of the president,” Aloysius John, the secretary general of Caritas Internationalis, said at the webinar.

“Haiti has perhaps become a forgotten emergency,” John said.

“We cannot turn a blind eye on Haiti. People are suffering … and the needs are tremendous in the country and international support is more than ever indispensable. So we need to reach out to the Haitian people in need,” he said.

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