Sunday, March 21, 2004

Hti: The silence of the church

Was it because Aristide was once one of them?

Whether preaching to peasants in mountain chapels or on radio to reach decision makers, Jacmel Bishop Guire Poulard has steadfastly condemned the killings in Haiti and the president he accuses of allowing them to flourish.

''This government was a disgrace,'' Poulard said at his home overlooking the Caribbean last weekend. Former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, he added, ``was corrupt and promoted nothing but violence and drug trafficking.''

But within the upper reaches of the church, Poulard has been on his own in his attacks against Aristide, himself a former Salesian priest.

Roman Catholic church leaders remained silent in the last few months about the increasingly violent reign of Aristide's Lavalas Family Party and the gunmen who attacked opposition leaders and marches, drawing the ire of human rights activists and many lay church members.

''As a Catholic, I'm appalled that the church has not come out against the state-sponsored violence in Haiti,'' said Charles Henri Baker, a businessman and leader of a civil coalition that opposed Aristide. "They knew where the violence was coming from, and they didn't say anything.''

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