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ISSUE 117 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/12/2004

Compassion in Haiti

By Laura Trude
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 12, 2004

In Haiti, people are sick of war. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has finally left the country, and the leader of the rebel group, Guy Philippe, has agreed to disarm. Philippe has yet to keep that promise. Many worry that once the foreign troops leave, including approximately 1,000 United States Marines, the rebels will come back to take over the country. The National Security Council hopes that the troops will provide enough stability for the country to restore normalcy. I hope so too, because I have a Compassion Child in Haiti. President Bush received U.N. approval to send troops into Haiti after Aristide left the country. France and Chile have also sent troops. The Jamaican Prime Minister, P.J. Patterson, has criticized the United Nations for not sending troops in earlier. The Caribbean Council is investigating allegations that Aristide was forced into exile by the United States. Haiti elected Aristide in its first free elections, but their idealistic hopes were not fulfilled.

Aristide was originally elected in hopes that he would restore the country and help the poor. Instead, he sent loyalist troops home without recompense and has left a wake of allegations of government corruption. Aristide is a reminder that installing a new government will not solve everyones problems. The United States also learned this lesson in Afghanistan. The United States helped the Taliban to gain control of the country because we hoped they would restore order. They did, but they brought with them a very orthodox version of Islam, much to the distress of the majority of Afghani. Then the Taliban would not allow us to search for Osama bin Laden, the now infamous terrorist. After that, we ousted the Taliban. In 1994, the last time the United States sent troops to Haiti, they enabled Aristide to come back from exile after a military coup by many of the same people among the current rebels. Aristide was the first leader elected via the democratic process in Haiti. He promised to bring peace in the mind, peace in the belly. The government did not succeed in the last, but at least Aristide was far kinder than their previous dictator. Many of Haitians poor live on less than one dollar a day. Compassion International has set up bases in some of the poorest communities. My Compassion Child, Wislander Saintirel, lives in an area where unemployment is at 90 percent. Most Haitians are subsistence farmers, although about two-thirds of Haiti is unsuitable for farming because of the mountains. Wislander lives with foster parents. Her father is a teacher, and her mother sells things in the market once in a while. Wislanders job is to carry the water for the familys food, drinking, and washing needs. She, thanks to Compassion, gets to go to school, has food to eat, clothes to wear, and a family to live with. She hopes to become a nurse someday. Although Wislanders government has not been able to meet her needs, this program gives her far more than money for food. It connects her with people who care about her, like the school teachers, and even I, who can write letters to her and send her birthday cards. While governments may fail, and leaders break their promises, we as individuals can help make the world better through programs like Compassion International. What is the future for Haiti? Hopefully peace will be restored, the troops will be able to go home, and the next president will keep his promise for peace in the mind, peace in the belly. Yet as long as the supply lines are open, Compassion International can continue its mission as an advocate for children, to release them from their spiritual, economic, social, and physical poverty and enable them to become responsible and fulfilled Christian adults.

Staff Writer Laura Trude is a sophomore from Andover, Minn. She majors in English and history.

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