The following comes from the Salesian News Agency:
A few days after his visit to Haiti, Fr Pascual Chávez Villanueva has written a letter to the Salesians, to members of the Salesian Family and to all those close to Don Bosco.
After describing what was done when the tragic news was received of the earthquake, the Rector Major explains the reasons for his visit between 12 and 15 February: “I felt it necessary, important and of significance to go personally to Haiti so that through the person of the Rector Major the closeness, the fraternity and the solidarity of the Congregation could be felt. I wanted to share at close hand in the suffering and the uncertainty in which the whole population is living.”
Visiting Port-au-Prince Fr Chávez was aware of the total lack of leadership and of how life “continues to go ahead, more by dint of inertia and by the struggle for survival than for any social organisation which is supporting or stimulating it.” “I tried to hear the voice of God which like the blood of Abel cried out with the voices of the thousands of the dead buried in mass graves or still under the ruins. I tried to listen to God who was speaking through the dull sound of the thousands of people struggling to live under the tents,... I tried to open my ears and heart to the cry of God which could be heard in the anger and feelings of powerlessness…”
The letter is not a simple description of the situation, but contains an exhortation and suggestions for the re-birth of the country, and especially of the Salesian presence. “Therefore the challenge for today cannot be merely to reconstruct the walls of the buildings, of the houses and of the churches destroyed, but rather that of making Haiti rise again, building it on living conditions which really are human, where rights, all rights, are for everyone and not the privilege of some.”
The fear, expressed several times, is that with the passing of time and the complicity of the mass media, Haiti will be forgotten, considered old news.
The efforts of the Salesian have been admirable as the opened their houses to welcome the displaced people as at Thorland, Pétion-Ville, Delmas, Cité Soleil. Fr Chávez renews the commitment of the Sons of Don Bosco “to the rebirth of the country, re-founding, step by step together, the Congregation with the presences which are responding to the expectations and the needs of the Haitian society, of the Church and of the young” In this process the State and the local Church need to take part together with consecrated life “ seeking more and more its identity, fidelity to the Lord Jesus, and his Gospel.”
The letter also contains some details of the decisions reached in agreement with the Council of the Vice Province for “the re-founding of the works, the revision of the pastoral approach in general, and in certain places, having always in mind, in particular, the needs of society, of the Church and of the young.”
Rebuilding, re-locating, re-thinking Salesian presences and works in the short and in the long term so as to ensure greater significance and pastoral effectiveness, is, he says, the programme: “Looking at the present and to the future, what becomes the priority is to keep the schools and youth centres functioning where they are fit for use, and in addition to build or re-build as soon as possible those works which have become unfit for use. The priority of the care and the education of the young is absolute, all the more so since what is at stake is the creation, through a new education, of a new culture, capable of building the new Haiti.”
In conclusion, the Rector Major thanks the Congregation, the Mission Offices, international organisations close to the Salesians, benefactors and friends of Salesian work inviting them “to continue with the efforts we are making to respond to the immense demands of this country in so much need.”