Monday, June 8, 2009

Thousands mourn dead Haitian priest, activist

An estimated 3000 people gathered in Miami’s Little Haiti and paid their last respects to Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, a tireless immigrant rights activist.

Jean-Juste passed away last week at the age of 62 after decades of acting as “the spokesperson” for South Florida’s growing Haitian community. He was a strong advocate for immigrant rights ever since he founded the Haitian Refugee Center in Miami. He was also vocal in seeking justice in his homeland after he returned to Haiti in the 1990s to protest the coup against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. His outspokenness would land him in jail in 2005 though he was soon allowed to return to the U.S. due to health problems.

The struggle for just and fair immigration continues to this day for those Haitians seeking a better life in the U.S. Nevertheless, Jean-Juste was instrumental in organizing and leading Haitian refugees:
''It's not a question of which man is going to replace Jean-Juste; he played his role,'' said Bishop Thomas Wenski, who served as pastor at Notre Dame d'Haiti Catholic Church in Miami from 1984 to 1997. ``You have a community that is very diverse and is showing success in different areas, in business and also politics and civic life. Jean-Juste played a role for the time that he was in Miami: He laid a foundation''…

‘‘He was perhaps one of the original of what they would call the sidewalk diplomats," said Wenski, now head of the nine-county Orlando Diocese. "He was a community organizer and a community agitator, in the best sense of the word."
Image- South Florida Sun-Sentinel (The late Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste was jailed in Haiti on allegedly politically motivated charges).
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist,, Miami Herald, Miami New Times

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

U.N. denials in Haiti

by Kevin Pina

Haitian priest Father Gerard Jean-Juste, a symbol of strength, courage and leadership to a great many, was to be laid to rest by his family, friends and supporters on June 18. Few expected the solemn occasion would be transformed into confusion and terror as U.N. forces opened fire towards Haiti’s national cathedral following the arrest of one of the mourners. A victim of a single gunshot wound to the head would be discovered moments later. Witnesses say his body writhed and convulsed struggling with the inevitable as blood slowly formed a crimson background around his head.

Jean-Juste would probably not be surprised by the shooting given that he was a leader of Lavalas and this was after all a Lavalas funeral. He would most likely recall many other instances of human rights abuses committed against Lavalas where the U.N. was complicit or directly involved. He would often criticize the U.N. mission in Haiti for killing unarmed civilians in Cite Soleil and for training the Haitian police as they regularly shot up peaceful demonstrations, performed summary executions and falsely arrested Lavalas supporters following the ouster of Aristide in Feb. 2004. Jean-Juste more than most, would understand that this incident is but one more in a long list of violent offenses committed against the movement of the majority of the poor in Haiti as part of the U.N.’s current experiment in political landscaping.