Thursday, January 28, 2010

Communications Will Help Haiti Heal

One of the keys to rebuilding Haiti in the wake of the devastating January 12 earthquake will be communications. Its purpose would be to meet the spiritual needs of the people. Here, Father Andrew Small, OMI, director of the National Collection for the Church in Latin America at the USCCCB, explains:

One of the immediate concerns is the terrible sense of loss that people experience. Securing the basics for survival includes the sense of security for yourself and your family as you painfully piece life back together. Haitians have been in a similar place before, only not on such a massive scale.

Along with this loss comes a sense of isolation. On the first Sunday after the earthquake, we saw images of people attending mass amid the ruins of their former churches. They pray like the psalmist amid desolation and despair, turning to God as their only hope. Many Church personnel perished in the quake, dozens of priests and seminarians as well as many tens of religious sisters. Those left to tend to the spiritual needs of the people are themselves deeply traumatized not least by the loss of their chief pastor, Archbishop Serge Miot.

Contact and communication is vital at this stage. Coming together in prayer is a natural instinct for believers. One of the most reliable ways for Catholics in Haiti to stay in contact with each other and to received on-going faith formation was the network of Catholic radio stations operating in each diocese. The most developed was the Catholic station in Port-au-Prince, Radio Soleil. The transmitter, antenna and other equipment lie buried beneath the rubble. The station manager escaped miraculously. The local Church knows this vital means of communication needs to be reestablished so that people can stay connected to their church. The Director, Fr. Jean, was pulled from the rubble and remains injured. He gets about on crutches. However, they have begun to operate out of a van in the Petionville district - still too afraid to begin broadcasting from inside a building.

Other religious groups are already broadcasting, so the need to reach out to Catholics is an urgent one.

CLA has supported this effective form of communication in Haiti, helping to fund a specialist who could train local operators and technicians. We will immediately find ways to seek equipment in the Dominican Republic and have it sent to Port-au-Prince as soon as possible.

This is one of the many immediate pastoral needs that CLA will continue to monitor and respond to in a timely and effective way using our long-established connections with the local church.

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