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Strengthened international sanctions against Haiti are having a devastating impact on missionary groups and churches working in the impoverished island nation. Missionary flights into Haiti have been disrupted by the political dispute, putting many projects at risk.
Haiti's president, Jean- Bertrand Aristide, was over thrown in a military coup in September 1991. The U.S. and the UN have imposed embargoes against Haiti in an attempt to force out its military rulers and reinstate Aristide. The sanctions have been broadened, including imposition of a new freeze on all air cargo and all commercial air passenger carriers.
Some exemptions are granted for humanitarian and mission flights to provide supplies and money for the national church and for mission work. Ralston Deffenbaugh, Jr., human-rights lawyer and executive director of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, visited Haiti in May and reported that the embargo has caused fuel costs to skyrocket. "Fuel was readily available—at a price," he says. "One could say the embargo was working perversely: those with power profit by it; those with money can overcome it; those with neither power nor money are hit by it."
Other ministries similarly expressed grave concerns about the sanctions' effects. "All our generators run on diesel fuel," says George DeTellis, director of New Missions in Haiti, headquartered in Orlando, Florida. "Now we're running them one hour a day. Our boats aren't running." New Missions in Haiti operates schools, medical clinics, and a Bible college, employing 180 Haitian Christians full-time.
Meanwhile, Compassion International, a child-sponsorship ministry, has urgently applied to the U.S. Treasury for permission to maintain funding for 182 church-based projects in Haiti with more than 16,500 children enrolled. Missionaries from some denominations have begun to leave the country, but others have decided to stay for now.