With U.S. warships offshore enforcing the international embargo, a tiny team of Christian peacemakers labors against political repression in Haiti through prayer, fasting, and nonviolent protest.
This summer, the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), sponsored by the Mennonite Church, General Conference Mennonite Church, and the Church of the Brethren, held a week-long protest fast and prayer vigil in the plaza of Jeremie, 180 miles from Port-au-Prince.
Four CPT members walked to the plaza across from the cathedral as early morning mass ended, carrying a large cross and a sign written in Creole reading, "We are fasting for peace, for the defense of life and against violence."
In a statement distributed to government authorities, religious communities, and passersby, CPT members said, "Like you, we have watched with dismay the growing hunger in Haiti. We long for an end to the suffering. We look to our Christian tradition of fasting and prayer to help us identify with suffering of our Haitian friends. We remember especially Jesus' love for children."
An hour-and-a-half later, members of the Haitian military ordered the group to leave the plaza and appear at military headquarters. CPT members used the walk through town to military headquarters as an opportunity to let others see their protest as they silently displayed the cross and sign.
The chief of police and other military and paramilitary commanders interrogated them at military headquarters. The questioners were concerned that the words peace and violence on the sign were political and that, under the Haitian constitution, foreigners are not allowed to participate in Haitian politics.
As team members engaged the authorities in a discussion about violence, they were told emphatically ...