GNRC Haiti Committee Meets

The GNRC committee in Haiti, all of whom were fortunately spared in the terrible earthquake and have been working night and day to provide aid and assistance since, met late last week to discuss how the GNRC as an interfaith network can best help in the emergency assistance and rebuilding of the country. The gathering of people from so many different religious traditions drew national media attention as a bright spot of hope amidst a dark and difficult situation. The GNRC Haiti Committee had only last November organized the country’s first GNRC event, a workshop on ethics education for children. Read on for the full text of their report about the workshop, written before the earthquake.

Workshop in Haiti on Ethical Education

Puerto Príncipe, 8 to 13 November 2009

Titled, "the Ethical imperative of Protecting the Environment", this workshop began on 8 Nov 2009 in the evening and ended on 13 Nov in the afternoon. The 70 participants – adults, young people and children – belonged to the following religion: Voodoo, Baha’is, Muslims, Catholics, Protestants and Evangelicals from several different denominations. During the inauguration, there were religions leaders from all of these religious traditions and members of the Haitian national television.

The first night was used to inscribe the participants, organize the logistics and to conduct the first activities of presentation and introduction to the workshop. The first two days of the workshop were dedicated to the conceptual and methodological introduction of the GNRC manual "Learning to Live Together", as well as the introduction to the topic of conserving the environment. Children and adolescents joined the workshop on the night of the second day, when there was an of welcoming and presentation activity. The two following days were dedicated to putting the lessons learned during the first days into practice with the children and adults, dealing in depth with the topics of the workshop.

The last day served to conduct feedback and learning evaluation sessions, as well as follow-up and planning for the future of GNRC in Haiti, with the representatives of each participating religious tradition in the workshop. A point that stood out in the evaluations, both individual and collective, was a strong appreciation of the methodology: All considered it to be very concrete and expressed having acquired very important tools for their work with children and adolescents.

All agreed on their desire to hold more workshops, organized by they themselves and/or with the help of GNRC. The deforestation of Haiti was identified as the greatest environmental problem, and they felt challenged as religious groups. They therefore projected uniting the religions to act together, as well as to create an eco-tourism project.

It was pointed out that Haiti is the country that receives the greatest amount of aid per -capita and yet it continues to be the poorest country of the region; therefore they recognized the urgency of modifying the social patterns, such as corruption, for which it will be very important for GNRC to continue and expand this working process with ethics education.

It was indicated that the vast majority of the population uses the Creole language, and that it is therefore necessary for the following workshops to be held in that language. It was agreed to generate a translation and expansion of the manual into the Creole language, where the activities for making them accessible to the population are described.
The inter-religious dialog does not seem to be a major challenge in Haiti. At least from the perception of the workshop, it was readily apparent that the acceptance among the religions was much more fluid than it was in other countries. The acceptance of individual and collective responsibility for making social change seems to be a greater and more profound problem in the Haitian culture.

There were more participants that expected, which was interpreted as the wish and need that the Haitians have to access to education opportunities and the need to take actions on the environment.

In conclusion, there is a palpable need to continue working in Haiti in a manner adapted to their own reality, while introducing concrete challenges for making decisions and implementing those decisions by the Haitians themselves.

The closure of the workshop was in the form of an inter-religious prayer, full of meaning and consequent with the dialog established over the 5 days of the workshop. This prayer included a procession with songs of hope, carrying small trees that were planted in the site of the encounter.

Written by Anne Patteet.

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