An interview with the Rev. MacDonald Jean of Haiti

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An interview with the Rev. MacDonald Jean of Haiti

Post by admin » Sat Apr 10, 2004 1:35 pm

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

An interview with the Rev. MacDonald Jean of Haiti

ENS 032304-3

[Episcopal Life/ENS] The Rev. MacDonald Jean, senior priest in the Episcopal Church of Haiti, a member of that country's new Conseil des Sages (Council of Wise Ones) spoke to reporter Nan Cobbey last week about politics, hope and gratitude during an interview in Port-au-Prince. Cobbey's reports and pictures about the church, the situation its members face and the first hand accounts of priests and leaders from across the country will appear in the May issue of Episcopal Life.

Macdonald Jean, 62, priest, author, professor and self-described "political activist," was one of seven individuals appointed to the new council. Working for the past three weeks, that conseil has now selected the new prime minister, the cabinet and is preparing to serve as a consultant body to the executive b
ranch of the new government.

Jean, educated in Haiti, Puerto Rico (Theological Seminary, B.A.) and Paris (Catholic Institute, M.A., and Sorbonne, Ph.D.) was ordained in 1968. He was elected to the Haitian Senate in 1995 and served as vice-president of that body until 1999. He taught at the diocesan theological seminary and for years led a major congregation and school in Gonaives, the northern coastal city where the turmoil began this year, the city known as the birthplace of Haiti's independence. He is the author of a number of works, including "Protestantism and Development in Haiti" and "Christian Initiation and Voodoo Initiation in Haiti."


Cobbey: You spent four years in the Senate, what positive things were you able to accomplish during those years?

Jean: I voted laws. I ratified some treaties and interventions for the Haitian state with the International communities and I have been a kind of acolyte for the people who sent me to the Senate, the people of the Artibonite.


As you may know, I worked in the Artibonite for 15 years, Gonaives. I got to know people there and when I was a senator, I used to go back to Gonaives three weekends a month, in order to be available to people, to know their needs, their preoccupations (worries/concerns) so I could bring all of this before the executive.

Cobbey: And what were those preoccupations, those concerns?

Jean: Their preoccupations were sometimes electricity, schools, hospitals, dispensaries and some kind of little roads to go in the countryside. Sometimes to help with water, to give water and sometimes, also, scholarships so the children can go to school.

Cobbey: And could you get them those things?

Jean: Sometimes I did...sometimes no...because of a lack of possibility...funding from outside or from the government itself.

Cobbey: Why does Haiti find itself again in a situation of coup and chaos, of "koupé tet, brulé kay?" [the angry slogan of Jean Jacques Dessalines, a general at the time of Haitis revolution for independence, which is heard again in the streets. It means, "chop the heads, burn the houses."]

Jean: It is very hard for all of us, difficult to explain, but one thing is that, in my life, I know for myself, the Haitian nation is not built up yet. We have not gotten together, all of us, in our communities. We live side by side, but not as a large community, not as what I would call a nation. What I mean is, a nation is a community which has common goals, common objectives. What we have in Haiti is small communities and each community has its own preoccupations [concerns] regardless of the preoccupations [concerns] of the other communities. A lack of common goals. That is what leads us into this kind of chaos. Each group would like to have the power for itself, but not for the well-being of the entire population. I think this is the main question.

Cobbey: It is difficult for North Americans observing what happens when the leadership changes here. We do not understand why viol
ence accompanies changes in government, and not just politicians but so many others within the population. Does this date from Dessalines?

Jean: Yes. Well, you know, from Dessalines up to today there was not a role, a real vision of having one country. The African society is a tribal society. Each tribe...When they bring our ancestors from Africa, I think those ancestors tried to build up their own tribal mentality. And after the independence, by education, our forefathers did not see the necessity to put down this tribal mentality, to develop a new kind of Haitian, a new Haitian person. So then the politicians play on this. Each politician has his own group. And when this man is in power, his group tends to oppress the others. But when the others take over power, they do the same.

So what is going on now in Haiti is not a matter of...Politics is a way to get rich. So when you are in power, all your friends--you come into government with your friends--so your friends, they get rich and the other
s get poor. With a vengeance.

Cobbey: And this was true with Aristide as well? He and his Lavalas Party seemed, at the beginning, to be the party of and for the poor...and of the vast majority. Elected with 67 percent of the vote...in a field of 12. What happened?

Jean: You know, when Aristide went in, with the aspiration [hopes] of everybody, including myself, he said he was a theologian of liberation. It is not true. He knew nothing about the theology of liberation. And everybody sees it. Nobody wanted Communism in Haiti at that time. Neither [did they want] the extreme right wing.

The theology of liberation was a kind of centrist, left of center perhaps, but not extreme left. Centrist, Aristide was. This is what we thought. So we thought this was a man with whom we could work to build up Haiti. When he got to power, seven months later, there was the coup. So everybody mobilized against the coup. Then, when he got back, he was a completely different person!

Cobbey: Really?


nJean: Completely different person.

Cobbey: What happened?

Jean: I don't know...I think he learned from the former politicians.

Cobbey: And what did he do for the people? Did he simply betray them?

Jean: I don't see what he did for the people myself. What he did for the people is to have them be what we call today "chimeres" [armed street gangs]. It is very difficult for me to explain, to understand what happened to that man. We trusted him so much. What happened?

Can you understand that after Aristide left, this time, he is still giving orders to his men, to destroy the country as much as they can. That's horrible. That's just horrible.

Cobbey: What must happen for this kind of instability to finally end?

Jean: Myself, I believe what is happening now, it will take a long time to get rid of it. Why? Because it is a kind of mentality...when you deal with this mentality, you get rid of it only by education...and education takes a lot of time.

Jean: I
n 1965, I was a seminarian and I went to the United States. I studied in Puerto Rico, but for the summer work, I went to the United States. I began to listen at that time to Stokeley Carmichael, the Black Power, Martin Luther King, the Black Panthers and so on. And the American President at that time said "The black American cannot exercise his rights because of lack of education. They must get educated first in order to exercise their rights."

Jean: I was very, very angry. I got mad. I said "What did you do for them to get educated?" But, he was right! He was right! You cannot exercise your rights if you don't know what is your right, after all. I think that we, in Haiti, must be aware of this problem. And begin by education.

Cobbey: Will there be motivation in the government to do that? Without educating the population, those in power can control people more easily.

Jean: Exactly. And they can have those little groups everywhere and they keep them powerless...and they depend on you for
everything and whatever you say, they say "Amen." So, education is the primary necessity for this country.

Cobbey: And the church's role in this?

Jean: The church's role is to empower, to go with this. And the Episcopal Church [has always] understood that.

We had a bishop--Charles Alfred Voegeli, one of the greatest men I ever met, who understood. I am what I am, thanks to Charles Voegeli. [A native of New Jersey, Voegeli was bishop of Haiti from 1943-1971. It was he who commissioned the controversial, now-famous, murals that adorn the cathedral in Port-au-Prince.] He was great, just great. He understood that. He said, "Because more than 80 percent of the Episcopalians are in the countryside, we must put education first for the peasant." And everywhere you have an Episcopal Church, there is a little school that goes with it.

But now, we need to implement this. We need to equip those schools. We need to have more and more schools, with adequate equipment and adequate teachers and
adequate program also, with a curricula adapted for this situation. A curricula that teaches not only to read and to write, but also to learn what it is to be a citizen in a society, what is the role of being a citizen, what is the common good of the country. To teach what democracy means.

Cobbey: How can ECUSA, the churches in ECUSA who feel connected to Haiti, who accompany you, help your efforts?

Jean: First, the Episcopal Church of Haiti must have a clear program, clear objectives that stress the needs of the Episcopal Church in Haiti in this day. Today. The church here must first do that. And then you can say, "Well we will journey with you in this, this and this."

We are on the way of doing that. We have the project, we are trying to articulate. One of the things that must touch on it is the Partnership Program. The Partnership Program is a way of journeying with us. The bishop and the Church of Haiti must say clearly, "We are here--we would like to go there...and in order to go th
ere, this is what we would like."

Cobbey: So that they are setting the direction?

Jean: Yes.

Cobbey: I want to ask you a bit about your future role. The mission of the Conseil des Sages is to remain involved in the government...what does that mean? What will you be doing now?

Jean: Now, for the time being. Well, we named the prime minister. Now we are working on the ministers, the cabinet. Wednesday, the new government will be installed. By Thursday they will begin to work. At that time, the Conseil des Sages, will be expanded, adding unions, women, teachers, Protestant church [representatives].

That's one thing. Second thing, they wanted to have the religious advice on this. But the Episcopal Church is the only non Roman Catholic church which is, I would say, a very powerful church in this country. [That's] because of what we have done and also because of the persons who represent the church.

Bishop Voegeli, the kind of man he was, he's the one who really gave str
ength and structure to this church.

Cobbey: The church has supported so many things that are truly Haitian--its art, its music, its creativity...

Jean: I think myself, Bishop Voegeli should be canonized as a saint of the Haitian Episcopal Church. I refer to him every day. Because of this man, who gave shape to this diocese--and it became a very big diocese and a strong and powerful church--I could become a senator, and everybody knows that I am an Episcopalian priest.

You know, when I was in the Senate, I make them pray before each session.

And the Bishop, Bishop [Zaché] Duracin was wise, maybe wiser than I am, wise enough to choose me because I know the political scene and the political world in this country. I know almost everybody on the political scene. And I have been a political activist all my life. When I was in College St. Pierre, I was part of a student group doing politics.

You were talking about the role, the future role of the Conseil des Sages. The role is to
be a consultant for the executive and also to control, to make sure, that everything goes well. But, most of all, to make sure that the money that would come from outside, from the international community, and also from the taxes, goes where it should go.

Cobbey: Have you received assurances from the World Bank, from the IMF or donor nations, that that money is now going to be coming in, no longer through NGOs but directly to the government?

Jean: We are not sure. Because of the political situation, that couldn't be done. But now the political situation is changing, I think it will change also.

Cobbey: In New York, Richard Parkins, director of Episcopal Migration Ministries, is very concerned about Haitian refugees being turned back or repatriated from the United States. He wants to know if there is any ministry focused on resettling those people once they are returned here. Either through the church or through the government or any NGOs?

Jean: The government has a program, Offic
e National de la Migration. Yes. They only give them a little money to pay their transportation to their home [region of the country].

Cobbey: There's no protection from those who might want to harm them?

Jean: No, no protection. And for the resettlement, as far as I know, there is no specific program for this. I do know there are some non-governmental organizations working on that, but I don't think they already have a program to resettle.

Cobbey: So these people, who have spent every penny they could gather to leave on those boats, are brought back here with no help?

Jean: Yes. Yes. It is very painful. I think this is somewhere that churches, especially the Episcopal Church, could work. I said especially the Episcopal Church because the Episcopal Church is everywhere in the country. [The church] has a chapel, or mission or parish almost everywhere in this country. The Episcopal Church could work on this, together with, I would say, other churches. But the Episcopal Church shoul
d be the leader.

Cobbey: Is there something else that you want to tell me that I haven't asked, that you think the American church ought to hear?

Jean: I would thank the Episcopal Church of America...for several things. On my personal behalf because...I am what I am because of the Episcopal Church. I am from the Island of La Tortue. My father and mother, they did not even know how to write. And I did my postgraduate studies at the Sorbonne in Paris thanks to the Episcopal Church.

I would thank the Episcopal Church because the Episcopal Church has always sustained the work of the Episcopal Church in Haiti. We are very, very grateful. And, also, the Episcopal Church, I hope, is ready to journey with us. We are thankful.

--Nan M. Cobbey is associate editor of Episcopal Life, the national newspaper of the Episcopal Church.

___________________________
Send QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS to The Rev. Jan Nunley, deputy director, jnunley@episcopalchurch.org The enslist is published by

nEpiscopal News Service: www.episcopalchurch.org/ens

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Post by Jonas » Sat Apr 10, 2004 4:49 pm

These guys will never finish to amaze me.

The same pablum ""The people must be educated""

What level of education must be attained?
It is when everybody in Haiti has a PHD,that they would be permitted to choose people to lead them?
When India reached independence in 1947,only 20% of the population knew how to read and write while hundreds of millions were illiterate.
How come since its independance ,India has never known a coup d'etat?
After all India is also a tribal society where more than 200 differents languages are spoken.
What about our neighbors in the Caribean?
Their ancestors aren't they like ours from african tribal societes?
What explains the stability they enjoyed opposed to that situation of turmoil in Haiti?
Maybe ,it's because Haiti continue to produce ""educated"" people like this Episcopal priest,while India had produced people like J. Nehru and the Caribean ,people like Bustamente and Er
ic Williams.

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Mark Twain said it well!

Post by admin » Sun Apr 11, 2004 12:10 am


"Statesmen [or so-called "Conseil de Sages" in Haiti] will invent cheap lies, putting blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war [or U.S. imposed "coup d'etat"] is just, and will thank God [or "Bishop Voegeli"] for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception."

-- Mark Twain, "Chronicle of Young Satan"</b> [my comments, "Chronicle of the 2004 Rape of Haiti"]

P.S. Thank you, Marilyn, for brilliantly deconstructing this ****.

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A few additional comments

Post by admin » Sun Apr 11, 2004 3:08 am


[quote]The African society is a tribal society. Each tribe...When they bring our ancestors from Africa, I think those ancestors tried to build up their own tribal mentality. And after the independence, by education, our forefathers did not see the necessity to put down this tribal mentality, to develop a new kind of Haitian, a new Haitian person. [/quote]
Thank you too, Jonas, for deconstructing with geo-political comparisons that most illogical explanation I have read to date about the genesis of Haiti's problems... Yeah... it is our "African tribal mentality". Oops, the entire slavery period got inadvertently wiped out. Oops, completely forgot to mention anything about "white man mentality". But one thing for certain, it must be our stupid black genes or cultural traditions that must be responsible for our tribalism (Makes me want to puke
, really!)


[quote]You know, when Aristide went in, with the aspiration [hopes] of everybody, including myself, he said he was a theologian of liberation. It is not true. He knew nothing about the theology of liberation. And everybody sees it. Nobody wanted Communism in Haiti at that time. Neither [did they want] the extreme right wing. The theology of liberation was a kind of centrist, left of center perhaps, but not extreme left. Centrist, Aristide was.[/quote]
And this guy did his postgraduate studies at Sorbonne in Paris??? Those blan must know how to turn men into zombies better than any Haitian bokor! No wonder Brian Dean Curran saw the salvation of Haiti residing in sending future leaders of Haiti to the great universities of Europe and America. Today, Macdonald Jean has made that intriguing statement by Brian Dean Curran, a forefather of the recent coup d'etat, PERFECTLY
CLEAR TO ME!


[quote]I think myself, Bishop Voegeli should be canonized as a saint of the Haitian Episcopal Church. I refer to him every day. Because of this man, who gave shape to this diocese--and it became a very big diocese and a strong and powerful church--I could become a senator, and everybody knows that I am an Episcopalian priest.[/quote]
You know, this is the part that made me publish the piece without any comments on my part at first. Such undignified groveling would have an obvious purpose. Not being steeped in the history or traditions of the Episcopal Church in Haiti, I wanted to let someone like Jafrikayiti (that, I knew, is) bring into evidence for me just what could reduce one of Haiti's illustrious wise men to such obvious uncletomism. After having read Jaf's comments concerning the genesis of the Episcopal Church in Haiti and
the role played by Bishop Voegeli in subverting it, I have a better picture of the modeling that he must have put in place to induce such "Mr. Collins to Lady Catherine de Bourgh" devotion among his disciples.


[quote]You know, when I was in the Senate, I make them pray before each session.[/quote]
What a great man! This reminds me of a former Cape-Haitian mayor who used to go to mass and communion every morning, at times before holding tribunal sessions to condemn to death by the charge of Communism, young men barely older than I was at the time. So during this demonized Aristide administration, our "Mr. Collins" made the senators pray before each session. And what in the dickens did that accomplish for the Haitian people? Unless, of course, our most honorable senators saw the answers to their prayers come down from the heavens aboard a fleet of U.S. Marine helicopters.


[quote]And the Bishop, Bishop [Zaché] Duracin was wise, maybe wiser than I am, wise enough to choose mebecause I know the political scene and the political world in this country.[/quote]
Wise enough to choose me... Wise enough to choose me... Wise enough to choose me... Wise enough to choose me... Wise enough to choose me... Wise enough to choose me...

Why do I feel the urge to reach for "Les Oeuvres Essentielles" of Dr. François Duvalier, our Father who art in Heaven?


[quote]Cobbey: So these people, who have spent every penny they could gather to leave on those boats, are brought back here with no help?

Jean: Yes. Yes. It is very painful... The Episcopal Church could work on this, together with, I would say, other churches. But the Episcopal Church should be the leader.[/quote]
...of course! Rev. MacDonald Jean, we feel your pain. With such wisdom come great responsibilities. God help
us all!

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