Since Haiti's new president, Rene Preval, took office in February, five police officers have been gunned down in the capital of Port-au-Prince, $950 million in international assistance has been withheld, and political infighting has endangered structural reform.
Yet these profound problems are considered solvable in the minds of Haiti-based Christian leaders, who have been re-energized by the return of democratic rule, the end of economic sanctions, and a new hopefulness among everyday Haitians.
"It seems like everything is a priority right now," says Marilyn Allien, spokesperson for Haiti's office of World Vision (WV), the international relief-and-development organization. "Since the crisis, everything has to be rebuilt."
Not all of Haiti's problems are "due to material things," she says. "There's a lot of need, a lot of poverty. But a change of heart is needed."
That change of heart among Haitians will not come overnight, many Christian outreach workers admit. And in spite of the return of former President Jean- Bertrand Aristide in October 1994, the lives of many Haitians have remained largely unchanged. "The mountain people still walk six hours to get their garden and fruit products to market," says Lena Siegers of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), an initiative among Mennonite and Brethren churches to resist violence in Haiti and in other hot spots around the world. "But they used to be able to make a living doing that. Now, others can't afford to buy their goods. There is so much rotting produce, the pigs can't eat it all."
In the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Cite Soleil, the largest and worst slum in this country of 6.5 million people, recent flooding meant children had to sleep on tabletops instead of the dirt floors ...1