STAMFORD, Conn. (UMNS) - Expressing continued concern for the people of Haiti, the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries has called the denomination to action on behalf of the Caribbean nation.
In a resolution approved during their March 22-25 spring meeting, board directors pointed to the need for more humanitarian aid, increased awareness by United Methodists of the critical situation in Haiti, and the development of strategies that promote peace through economic development, reconciliation initiatives and civic education.
The Rev. Randy Day, the board's chief executive, spoke about the mission agency's commitment to justice, freedom and peace in Haiti and how the board could respond to needs there during his address to directors.
Violence and armed conflict resulted in the resignation and departure of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Feb. 28. "In recent weeks, we have again been confronted with civil disorder in Haiti, where lives have been lost and where our vigorous (Volunteers in Mission) program has been disrupted and sustained humanitarian programs jeopardized," Day said.
The agency will continue working with the Methodist Church in Haiti, which has detailed development plans. Top priorities in response to the current crisis include assisting with education through the church's network of schools; providing emergency medical care, both for people directly affected by violence and those in need in rural areas; and providing training to develop a pastoral ministry for trauma victims.
Kristen Sachen, a United Methodist Committee on Relief staff member, visited Methodist leaders in Haiti earlier in the month. Educating future generations is the only hope for the creation of a civil society in Haiti, the church leaders told her. They estimate that 1,200 families involved in one of their projects will be unable to afford school fees of $250 each because of the current crisis.
A district of the Methodist Church of the Caribbean and the Americas, the Haitian church has established a substantial system of both elementary and high schools and has published books in French and Creole. The church also has helped develop a corps of educators and leaders.
Day pointed out that the cost of the school fees, emergency medical care and trauma training is "relatively low," especially in terms of the benefits to Haitians.
The church also has other long-established, successful projects, such as the hot lunch program, which provides 16,877 students with meals at 93 schools, mostly in rural areas. But in 2003, only a little less than half of the $480,000 needed annually for the program was raised, meaning cutbacks in the months ahead. Information on this and other United Methodist Advance projects in Haiti is available online at http://gbgm-umc.org/advance.
In an additional action, board directors noted that "questions about the circumstances surrounding the change of power and the departure of President Aristide remain unanswered." They asked Day "to use appropriate means to seek answers to these questions."
Board directors already have filed a petition urging General Conference, the denomination's top legislative body, to adopt a resolution calling for better treatment of Haitian asylum seekers by the U.S. government. General Conference meets April 27-May 7 in Pittsburgh.
The Board of Global Ministries is encouraging a comprehensive denominational response to the Haiti crisis through donations to the United Methodist Committee on Relief Advance No. 418325, Haiti Civil Emergency.
Checks can be dropped in church collection plates or mailed directly to 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115. Credit-card donations can be made by calling (800) 554-8583.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York. News media can contact Linda Bloom at (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.