Last night I was chatting online with one of my best friends. We got into talking about what our family has been going through over the last month and she shared with me that she just wanted me to come home. It wasn’t that she wasn’t supportive of what we were doing or anything like that, it was just that she wanted me/us to be home where it was safe for us. I told her that I understood, didn’t think she was a lousy friend for feeling that way (quite the opposite) and that I, myself had wanted to go home many times in the last month.
Yesterday afternoon Chris and I sat out on the deck and watched the beginnings of the rain move in. As we were talking we got around to talking about safety, or rather the idea of it. One thing that has become very real to me here in the last month is that “safety” as I’ve come to know it, is not the norm. I’ve said for a long time that we in North America tend to think that our way of living is the norm, but it’s not. When you compare it to the rest of the world, it’s the exception. I think it’s the same for our version of “safety”.
If you stop and think about it, we have so many resources to help protect us, even down to how we look after our newborn children. We buckle them into car seats with 5 point harnesses and we drive around in vehicles that have passed multiple crash tests and scored the best ratings. We deadbolt our doors and have household alarm systems. When we call the police they arrive within minutes because they always have someone on patrol. Those things are all at our fingertips.
I keep thinking about the resources that we’ve been able to tap into over the last month. God has brought some great people into our lives over the last few years and many of them have been a great support and have been able to come to bat for us and the mission. I also know that the average Haitian doesn’t have access to that and it makes me deeply sad. Their confidence in the police is minimal due to corruption and the fact that the police are just ill equipped. Many don’t have a vehicle available even if they wanted to go help out, so no emergency response. And, many don’t have the necessary weapons to help defend themselves. Coming from a country with a policing system that works well it is difficult for me to see the vast contrasts. I feel a big sense of pride knowing that my country has been asked to come into Haiti and try to offer support and training to the Haitian police because we’re known for our policing system. When I see the RCMP uniform it almost makes me want to cry. Maybe that’s also a need to go home for a visit speaking, but it is there.
I have grown up knowing a sense of safety throughout my life that many people here in Haiti could not even imagine. And I have come to expect that as my right. I can’t tell you how sad I have been feeling over the past weeks when I think about how people respond to situations like what we’re experiencing here right now. We see community justice kick in because people feel the infrastructure and support on a government level aren’t there, and they’re right. People resort to threats towards other people when they feel they have nothing else that they can do, and the problem is that the threats work and the result is a country that revolves and functions around fear.
Case in point. After the arrest was made last week some of the family of the guy arrested ended up coming by. First off I have to give props to the Haitian grapevine because it all happened within about 3 hours of the arrest. They came to “talk”. Chris told them in no uncertain terms that there was nothing to discuss because it was the police that had arrested the man, not him. If they had a problem with him being arrested they needed to go talk to the police. They told our guards (who were fabulous) that if the guy wasn’t released the next day they would be back with violence. They didn’t ever come back but their aim was to put fear in us so that we would back off. This is the normal way of dealing with things here. We recieved a phone call two nights later from a “person in the village” who wouldn’t identify themselves. Chris cut the guy off right away and told him that if he was calling to threaten him, his family or any of his workers that he would be arrested (true – you can get a mandate for a threat of any kind and it gives the police grounds to make an arrest if necessary). The phone calls stopped.
The whole thing makes me deeply sad. I’m sad because I’ve had the privilege of knowing how peaceful life can be when there is a system of justice in place that the majority respects and trusts. A system that works in the best interest of it’s citizens. I’m realizing what a rare thing that is.
Think about it. Right now there are people all over the world that are daily fearing for their lives. Innocent people. People that live in a “norm” of gun fire going off regularly. People living in fear of their homes being raided. People living in fear that their loved ones may not return from the market or work that day. That is their norm. There are people living in refugee camps in many parts of the world because of battles between tribal groups. Genocide is a reality.
Yes, our situation has been hard. I will not lie. I have cried several times because of the stress. I’m tired of the emotional roller coaster. BUT, when I think about it, it is only our sense of safety that has been threatened. No one has been hurt. The only real thing that has happened is that someone burned the van and wrote a bunch of stuff on a paper. Don’t get me wrong, we are taking all of it very seriously and have felt the effects of the threat of danger on us, but no one has actually done anything beyond the initial act aside from some words said in the lane.
We know that because of the action we’ve taken the people responsible are very afraid right now. We’ve seen it with our own eyes. It really is just a matter of time until things are taken care of. Until then we know that the roller coaster will continue and that even afterwards there will still be people upset about how things played out. BUT, when I look at the big picture I can see that we’re okay right now. It’s hard to explain to people that have never been in a similar situation. There just isn’t the same starting point. A couple of months ago I wouldn’t have been able to understand it if someone had tried to explain it to me. I am grateful that this situation has reminded me again of the luxuries I had living in Canada. It’s not just about material possessions. We have so much on so many other levels too.
Yes, we are “unsafe” right now, but it could be so much worse. It has been so hard, but it could be so much worse. I was never promised a life with an absence of safety, I just sort of expected it. I do know that it’ll take a while for us to emotionally recover from this, just like it did with past events, but I can see how God is using the situation in so many ways to change us and to do things around here. My big hope and prayer is that this thing will impact our area in a positive way and that it might encourage people to move forward in a new way, a way that lets them live life with a bit less fear.
As a bit of a silly “up side” to things in the last week… when it rains in Haiti everyone stays inside. You can literally drive around and not see a single person out. It’s kind of erie. The same is true of vagabonds (the Creole word for people that do what’s been done to us, not mine). Since the guy was arrested last week it has rained every single night, except one. I can’t tell you how much peace that’s brought to me, knowing that a simple act of nature will discourage people from being out. I’ve been thinking of it as God’s little reminder of protection over the mission :) I find myself looking up to the sky in the late afternoon hoping and praying that we’ll get another downpour.