Monday, April 29, 2013
The pregnant woman at the Massacre at St Jean Basco Church on September 11, 1988
On September 11, 1988, a priest was giving a mass in the St Jean Basco Church in the La Saline area of Port-Au-Prince. Haiti was ruled by a military dictator, Lt General Henri Namphy, who had suspended the constitution and was attacking anyone who called for democratic elections. Earlier, when the people had attempted elections they were massacred throughout the countryside.
The priest giving the mass that day was Aristede, a man who spoke out for Haiti's poor through liberation theology. On this day, people were wearing white to call for the return of the constitution. Namphry warned that people who wore white would be seen as being defiant to his government. Aristede had been attacked many times before. The people attending the mass knew it was dangerous but their faith and belief led them there to be a a voice for God, human rights and democracy.
On this Sunday morning, Aristede had just begun mass for about 1000 people when government paid "thugs" began to attack. The army, police and mayor stood by and watched as the parishioners were stoned, killed with machetes and machine gunned. Attending mass that morning was a pregnant woman who was stabbed in the stomach. When she escaped the thugs searched every maternity ward demanding that the women in labor raise their shirts so they could look for the stab wounds and they could finish their work. They never found her.
She was taken to a private doctor and her wounded baby was delivered by c-section. Her mother named her Hope.
While people were being attacked at St Jean Basco Church, the United States was about to elect Ronald Regan to a second term of office. Although the government officially condemned the attack and called for democratic elections, the fear of communism and Hatien immigrants out weighed my governments firm call for the end of human rights abuses in Haiti. It is likely that our tax dollars had helped fund the army that stood by and watched as it happened. The people in the countryside were and are still portrayed as dangerous and out of control when in reality, I have come to see that they were defending themselves and their children from starvation and attacks by roving groups of government hired thugs who killed and frightened the rural poor who wanted democracy and power over their economic future.
Somewhere in Haiti, there is a young 25 year old woman, named Hope who was born on September 11, 1988. Much has changed since her birth. Jimmy Carter came down and supervised elections and Aristede, the well loved priest in the church, became president. I want to believe that Hope got to go to school and that her children, if she had some, are well and that she tells the them and her grandchildren how their grandmother bravely went to church that morning, even very pregnant , in the hope for a democratic and economically free Haiti; for the baby she carried and for all of Haiti's children.
I do not know the mother's name, but in my mind, I construct a monument to her. I watch her and Rosa Parks walking arm and arm down the street, talking about how women, pregnant and all, bring democracy to the world. It might take awhile but women never stop trying. They laugh and shake their heads and say it sure takes awhile but things are getting better.