During Lent, we are accustomed to examining ourselves for the ways in which we need to change as individuals; but we are not as accustomed to taking stock of how our collective actions affect our brothers and sisters, from those down the block to those across the world. Today, as we walk with Jesus through his final hours, we recognize the struggles of the Haitian people in each of the stations and ask God to help us to see through the eyes of His poor. We are reminded that we are called as individuals and as members of the human family to do the work of Justice and we pray that through the power of the resurrection, we may come to envision and work towards a world in which Justice and Peace for all is no longer a faint hope or a pleasant dream, but the very fabric of the world in which we live.
The First Station: Jesus is condemned to death.
Often, we think of death only in the literal sense; and yet, there are many ways to die. Perhaps the most unjust “death sentence” one can face is to be robbed of one’s human dignity. So it was for the nation of Haiti. For 2 centuries, the entire nation was enslaved and its people bought and sold. How could a whole country, an entire people be so brutally and inhumanly treated? The answer is the greed of others. For hundreds of years, Haiti and its people were the play things and captives of rich nations trying to become richer, as wealthy nations profited from the de-humanization of their Haitian brothers and sisters through the slave trade.
We pray: Jesus, just as you were condemned to die, so too was the nation of Haiti condemned into slavery. Heal us from the blindness that allows us to see some people as worth less than others. .
The Second Station: Jesus is Given His Cross
After a long time suffering under the injustice of slavery, the Haitian people finally stood up to the French, who were enslaving them in 1791. After a long, hard war, the Haitians finally defeated the French in 1801 and became the first independent country in the New World to outlaw slavery. This new freedom however, came at a brutal cost. In order to keep peace, the Haitian government had to pay an enormous debt to France and other nations—including the US-- imposed harsh trade regulations on the young country, thus ensuring that Haiti would carry this legacy of debt for years to come.
We pray: Jesus just as you were given your cross, so too were the people of Haiti, in the form of their crushing burden of debt. Free us from the desire to hold others in debt to us and fill our hearts with the willingness to pardon and forgive.
The Third Station: Jesus Falls for the First Time
Although Haiti had attained some level of freedom, it was forced to stand alone in the world, with no aid from other nations. Though France was no longer enslaving Haiti’s people, it was still stripping the young country of its natural resources which were Haiti’s only source of economic hope. Because resources were so scarce, different groups within Haiti began to fight amongst themselves in the hopes of controlling them. Where Haiti had once been united in throwing off its foreign oppressors, it now began to be divided due to the unjust distribution of wealth within the country.
We pray: Jesus, the weight of injustice caused Haitians to become divided against one another. Deliver us from the temptation to be divided against our brothers and sisters and help us work towards unity in our world.
The Fourth Station: Jesus Meets His Mother
There is a Haitian Proverb, “fanm se poto mitan.” It means that women are the central pole of life, that they support society. Haitian women play many roles; they are the bread-winners, the healers, the educators, the advocates; put simply they are the “mothers.” Sadly, due to lack of resources, more women in Haiti die before, during and after child-birth than anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere.
We pray: Jesus, in your darkest moment of despair, your mother was there, giving you strength through her tremendous love. May each one of us be “mothers” to those around us, as we offer them unconditional love and tender compassion.
The Fifth Station: Simon of Cyrene Carries the Cross.
Although Haiti has faced many injustices, there have been those who have worked to bring justice and healing to the nation. For more than 50 years Catholic Relief Services has walked with the poorest and most marginalized Haitians. Their focus has not only been on emergency needs, but also on economic growth for the poorest citizens through agriculture, natural resources and small-business development. They also support Haitians by providing much needed programs in education and health. In the midst of Haiti’s deep poverty, Catholic Relief Services has been a source of hope and strength.
We pray: Jesus, Simon may never have known how much relief he brought to you by carrying your cross. Embolden us to be messengers of hope by seeking out those in our midst who suffer under heavy crosses and helping to lighten their loads.
The Sixth Station: Jesus Falls for the Second Time
As Haitians struggled to survive by growing crops to feed their families, they received yet another staggering blow. The US government destroyed Haiti’s rice industry by flooding the market with American grown rice, which resulted in farmers losing their jobs and forcing many to move from the county into already over-crowded cities. Once in the cities, one of the few jobs available was in sweatshops, where hours were long and conditions brutal. Those who stayed in the country were driven to deforest the hills in order to covert wood into sellable charcoal, which created an ecological crisis—destabilizing the hillsides and making Haiti more vulnerable to floods and earth quakes.
We pray: Jesus, we see the way that the actions of a few can lead to the suffering of many. Challenge us to examine all of our actions and to work for the good of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters.
The Seventh Station: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus
Not everyone however, chose to abandon Haiti. Begun with the vision of healthcare for all, Dr. Paul Farmer co-founded Partners In Health in Haiti in the
1980’s. Since then, he has dedicated his life to providing high quality medical care to the country’s poorest. Farmer and his colleagues have successfully challenged the policymakers who claim that quality health care is impossible to deliver in areas lacking resources. His philosophy is “The only real nation is humanity” and his lives it out daily as he works to bring healing to those in need.
We pray: Jesus, Veronica’s simple act of love must have been a powerful reminder to you that you were not alone. Grant us the grace to imagine new ways in which we can minister to the lonely, the discouraged, the broken and the hopeless.
The Eighth Station: Jesus Meets the Daughters of Jerusalem
In 1991, John Bertrand Aristide, a popular former priest who ministered to materially poor Haitians became Haiti’s first democratically elected president. He was considered to be the “voice of the voiceless” and ran on a campaign of hope and change. His main campaign goal was to raise sweatshop wages to $1 a day; a vivid example of just how desperately poor Haiti is. Within months, Arisitde was overthrown in a bloody military coup and forced to flee the country. The United States promised to help return him to power but the promise of aid never materialized.
We pray: Jesus, the way of the cross is a powerful reminder to us that injustice still exists in our world. Help each one of us to become “the voice for the voiceless” and cry out for a new tomorrow where justice and peace reign.
The Ninth Station: Jesus Falls for the Third Time.
When Aristide was democratically elected again in 2001, the United States cut off all aid to Haiti in protest. Going even a step further, in 2004 US Marines forcibly removed Arisitide, taking him to Africa where he remains in exile. Once again, Haiti’s people and government had become the pawn of wealthy nations seeking their own self-interest and promoting their own agendas rather than justice.
We pray: Jesus, at times life can seem so tremendously unfair. When we have fallen into despair or hopelessness, remind us that you are closest to us in our darkest moments, always loving us and ready to give us new hope.
The Tenth Station: Jesus is Stripped of His Garments
To add insult to injury, in the years after Aristide was elected and removed for the second time, the United States blocked other nations from providing over $500 million dollars in aid through an Aid Embargo. The results were unbearable. Without foreign aid, AIDs programs closed down, and water, health care and road construction programs all came to an end.
We pray: Jesus, not only were you tortured and executed, but those who did mocked your very humanity. May we always honor the human dignity of each and every person we meet though our words and actions.
The Eleventh Station: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross
Just recently, the whole world was shaken by images of despair, destruction and devastation that flooded the media after the January earthquake. What is so troubling about the recent natural disaster is that so much of the destruction could have been prevented if Haiti had had access to proper building and inforstructer. Even more outrageous is the number of needless deaths that occurred due to a lack of proper medical resources and attention. Just as the earth rumbled on Good Friday, signaling the death of an innocent man, so too did the Haiti’s land cry out against the death of her people.
We pray: Jesus, in times of crisis it can seems as if God has abandoned us all together. Give us the strength to cling to the hope of your resurrection even when it feels as if we might give up.
The Twelfth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross
As business returned to usual for the rest of the world in the weeks and months following the earthquake, hundreds of thousands of Haitians remain homeless and vulnerable to the dangers of the upcoming rainy season. Some areas of Haiti are at high risk for catastrophic flooding, due to deforestation and lack of urban planning. If swift action is not taken soon, Haitian survivors face the possibility of yet another natural disaster.
We pray: Jesus, you tell us in your word that if we would be your disciples, we must take up our crosses and follow you. Help us to die a little, each day to the pride and the selfishness which keeps us far from your and from our brothers and sisters.
The Thirteenth Station: Jesus’ body is removed from the cross
And yet, despite the myriad of injustices that Haiti has faced at the hands of foreign nations and its own leaders, the cry for justice breaks through the din and gives us a reason to hope. After the January quake, worldwide compassion and outreach to the Haitian people was seen as never before. At the urging of many, the World Bank cancelled $1.2 billion of Haiti’s foreign debt, creating for the first time the real possibility of a debt-free Haiti and giving the nation the hope of a better tomorrow. All agree, however, that the world’s greatest gift to Haiti would be the chance for Haitians to rebuild and govern their country which has for so long been at the mercy of everyone but them.
We pray: Jesus, your friends and mother lovingly took your body down from the cross, honoring your life in the process. Help us, though the two feet of charity and justice to be a compassionate presence in our world.
The Fourteenth Station: Jesus is laid in the tomb
If the Haitian people have one thing to teach the rest of the world, it is the simple, vital lesson of Hope. As an Easter people, we know that the darkness of Good Friday can be overshadowed by the glorious light of Easter Sunday; so too, we believe, trust and hope that the nation of Haiti will be resurrected through the love and dedication of its people and all people around the world who work for justice. Since resurrection is a living process, we experience and create it each time we find ways to deepen the bonds of solidarity and spirituality that connect us as human beings.
We pray: Jesus, we know that Christian drama does not end with you in the tomb. This Easter, may we live in the light of Easter, and be brave enough to manifest the power of your resurrection wherever life takes us.
~ Notre Dame Prep Religion Department ~
March 31, 2010