“This used to be a beautiful place, but these people are tearing up the property,” said Jim Hudson, a Church of God missionary living at the site. “They’re urinating on it. They’re bathing out in public. They’re stealing electricity. And they don’t work. They sit around all day, waiting for handouts.”
This quote was from Tuesday’s New York Times article by Deborah Sontag about the displaced people in Port-au-Prince. It is not often we comment on people’s opinions but this statement seems particularly harsh coming from a supposed Christian person. While we understand the frustration of some private property owners who have seen their property overran by the victims of the January earthquake, such vile language is unacceptable. We are calling on Mr. Hudson’s church to investigate whether or not the quote attributed to him is accurate and if so to take some disciplinary actions against him.
We’re by no means, advocating disciplining someone for their opinion, but when you look at his statement, it is laden with racist undertone and probably wanted to call these destitute people animals. We understand that the people are living in squalor, frankly this is one of these times where we can safely say that it’s not their fault. Mr. Hudson talks about them not working. Is he serious? Where are they supposed to get jobs in a country that had an unemployment rate of more than 80 percent before the earthquake.
How would Mr. Hudson feels if we were to paint the whole missionary community as a bunch of hypocrites who are forcing their religion on people in exchange for a plate of food and that they are racist interlopers in countries where they can feel superior than the locals.
Obviously this is not an accurate picture of the missionary work, but that’s exactly what Mr. Hudson is portraying. Where we and Mr. Hudson agree is that the Haitian government and the international community need to find a more or less permanent solution to the displaced problem. Some analysts say that the UN and Haitian government have not move to resettle these people largely because they need them to vote in next month’s presidential election.
Without the homeless around Port-au-Prince, the logistics of voting become even more complicated after many voting age people lost their lives or lost their ID cards. Continuing democratic process is more important at this point than dealing with the homeless.
We agree with this assessment and we find it dangerous. This is not a either or situation. The twin goals can be met simultaneously. The longer the government keep the homeless in public and private locales, the more difficult it would be to resettle them. The thousands of people who call the Champ de Mars home are so entrenched that they’ve begun to build more permanent structure on the country’s largest square.
This difficult and complicated task is being punted to the next president and we believe that’s unfair. The education and preparation for more permanent abode is the responsibility of this current administration. While we’re not saying they will finish the task by February, when the new president will be inaugurated, it should lay the foundation for such a move.
What is frustrating is that the international community and the Haitian government appear to be at a standstill and don’t know what direction to take once the initial crisis reaction has passed.
In the aftermath of this calamity everyone was saying the right thing and there was hope that Haiti could turn this disaster into an opportunity for a fresh start. Unfortunately, nine months later, we’re not so sure.