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'Organized chaos' as help reaches Haiti


Haiti Dispatches

Editor's note: Gerry Straub, a filmmaker who has placed his art "at the service of the poor," is in Haiti and will be reporting by phone when possible during the next week. More than 15 years ago, Straub gave up a lucrative career producing daytime television to explore the interplay between creativity and spirituality. He underwent a deeper conversion while doing a book on St. Francis of Assisi, and for the past 12 years, he has documented the plight of poor people around the world.

In early December, he traveled to Haiti to begin filming a documentary titled "Angels of Compassion: the Luminous Force of Intentional Kindness." He spent time filming work being done in Haiti's Cite Soleil, described as the worst slum in this poorest country in the hemisphere. He returned Jan. 21.

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti -- When Gerry Straub landed at the airport at Port au Prince the morning of Thursday, Jan. 21, he described the scene as "organized chaos," with countless people seeking treatment for all manner of injuries and planeloads of supplies arriving regularly.

Miami prepares for Haiti orphans, child refugees


MIAMI -- The Catholic Archdiocese of Miami, Fla., has announced that it "stands ready to receive, house and find permanent homes for Haitian children who may have been orphaned by the disaster; similar to what was done for Cubans in the 1960s."

In an operation known as Pedro Pan in the 1960s, the Catholic church in Miami helped resettle 14,000 Cuban children who were sent from their homeland by their parents to get them away from that country's political strife. They later were reunited with their families as their parents were able to emigrate from Cuba.

Teresa Martinez, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Miami told Catholic News Service Jan. 19 that the new orphan resettlement program, being called Pierre Pan, was expected to be approved by the U.S. government soon. Meanwhile, the archdiocese was fielding calls, e-mails and Web postings from people around the country offering to take in Haitian children, either temporarily or to adopt them.

Haiti: Phase II


Forty-eight years ago my wife Margaret and I were in Port-Au-Prince on our honeymoon. It was the first week of our marriage and we visited the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption for God's blessings on our marriage. Almost five decades later, we are grateful for God's blessings.

Today, the cathedral is in ruins. The archbishop of Port-Au-Prince is dead. As many as 20 priests and seminarians are known to be dead as well. An estimated 200,000 people have died as a result of the Jan. 12 earthquake.

Agencies boost effort to help Haitians

WASHINGTON -- Facing a growing humanitarian crisis after the largest earthquake in Haiti in two centuries, Catholic aid agencies and world governments were boosting efforts to respond to the needs of hundreds of thousands of injured and homeless.

Agencies such as Jesuit Refugee Services and Catholic Relief Services as well as smaller organizations from around the world have raised millions of dollars to provide medical services, feed and shelter people and head off the rapid spread of disease.

The agencies were coordinating efforts with other religious, nongovernmental and government operations as hunger grew and some Haitians became increasingly impatient because they had received little or no assistance in the week since the Jan. 12 quake.

Caritas officer blogs experiences in Haiti


VATICAN CITY -- Amid the chaos and rubble, survivors of the Haiti earthquake sing and pray together, showing unity in times of devastation, said Michelle Hough, a communications officer for Caritas Internationalis.

Hough, who works in the Vatican-based headquarters of the umbrella organization for national Catholic charities, was sent to Haiti as a member of the international rescue staff to help with operations in the area. Hough has been recounting her experiences through daily blog updates from Haiti.

Haiti, desperate poverty even before the earthquake


Editor’s note: Tom Roberts, NCR editor at large, traveled to Haiti and the Dominican Republic in October with two other journalists, winners of Catholic Relief Services’ Eileen Egan Award for Journalistic Excellence. The trip was sponsored by Catholic Relief Services, which prepared the itinerary. As such, it serves as a backgrounder to the current disaster.

HAITI and DOMINICAN REPUBLIC -- Our small group and several dozen other people, most of them presumably from Haiti, embarked on a trip from the ground level of the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., airport in late October. No one opened or inspected any of our bags or the various boxes going on board the small propeller-driven commuter plane. No one was required to go through any screening devices.

It was the first time since 9/11 that any of us -- three journalists and two staff members of Catholic Relief Services -- could recall leaving a U.S. airport for anywhere without having to go through even minimal security. In a later phone call to the airline counter, a man who claims he’d been loading passengers there for five years said the airline never conducted any security because it was small and isn’t considered a threat.

US grants temporary protected status for Haitians

Haitians currently living in the United States without legal status will be granted temporary protected status, allowing them to remain in the country and legally hold jobs, announced Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano Jan. 15.

In a teleconference, Napolitano said temporary protected status will be extended to Haitians who were in the United States as of Jan. 12, the day a magnitude 7 earthquake flattened much of Haiti's capital city, Port-au-Prince.

The designation will continue for the next 18 months, she said, and people may apply immediately.

She said Haitians who are not currently in the United States should not attempt to travel there to qualify for the status. "They will not be eligible and will be repatriated," Napolitano said.

She said she understands that the dire conditions in Haiti make it "tempting to seek refuge elsewhere," but encouraged people to remain in their country to help in rebuilding.

Since the earthquake, calls have escalated to protect Haitians in the United States from deportation and allow them greater freedom to send money back to their homeland.

A downward spiral, but 'Christians will remain'


Even a casual review of the Vatican's foreign policy interests over the last few decades would confirm that the Middle East -- in Christian parlance, the Holy Land -- is at the top of the list. In part, that's because the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is key not only to stability in the region, but to relationships between Islam and the West and between Christianity and Judaism. In part, too, it's because the Christian population of the Holy Land is in freefall, with the nightmare scenario being that one day soon there will be no Christians left in the land of Christ.

As one Arab Christian told The Jerusalem Post recently, speaking anonymously for fear of backlash: "We're trapped between two larger peoples that don't like each other … and they don't like us either."

Relatives of Haiti earthquake victims pray

MIAMI -- Martine Jeudi held photos of her aunt and other relatives in her hand at a Miami church Jan. 13 as she prayed for victims of the magnitude 7 earthquake that struck Haiti Jan. 12 and devastated areas of Port-au-Prince, the capital.

"My aunt was killed," said Jeudi, 36, who came from Hollywood to attend a memorial prayer service at Notre Dame D'Haiti Church. "My other relatives are missing. The building (where they lived) was destroyed."

Catholic agencies prepare for long-term relief

Baltimore-based Catholic Relief Services has been asked by the Vatican to coordinate the church's relief and recovery efforts in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

The U.S. bishops are asking parishes across the United States to take up a second collection Jan. 16-17 to help ease "the terrible suffering of our brothers and sisters in Haiti" after a magnitude 7 earthquake.



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April 11-24, 2014


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