Unrest continues in Haiti

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by Sue Schumann Warner

MORE THAN A THOUSAND children attend The Salvation Army’s College Verena in Port-au-Prince; the school was closed due to disturbances in the surrounding area.

Salvationists continued to feed the poor, care for the sick, educate the youth, and tend the spirits of thousands of churchgoers in Haiti, even as rebel forces swept across the ravaged island nation.
Over 130 citizens have been killed since the rebellion began in early February.
Haiti Divisional Commander Major Ron Busroe provides an update on the Army’s situation:
“Sunday, 29 February 2004, began with feelings of joy for those who had worked for months to oust President Aristide, but for his supporters it was a day of rage. We watched from our home as plumes of black smoke rose over sections of downtown Port au Prince and listened as gun battles erupted in our neighborhood.

“On Monday, few people ventured from their homes—choosing to stay behind closed and locked doors. Captain Lucien Lamartiniere, the divisional secretary, reported the area around divisional headquarters was very hot. Ware-houses and businesses in the area were looted and some burned. Thankfully, the Army compound that contains divisional headquarters, College Verena, La Maison du Bonheur Children’s home with 54 residential children, the clinic, central corps and homes for eight officers and one lay Salvationist remained undamaged.

“At 9:30 p.m., Monday, Major Anne Kristine Herje (Norwegian officer in charge of the children’s home) reported a group came to the gate of the Army compound and threatened to enter. The gang was turned away by Lamartiniere and Major Mathieu Milfort, central corps officer, because the security guards for which we pay a high price were nowhere to be seen and the police never responded to our call for help. That night felt endless; we were helpless except for our prayers.
“At 6 a.m. Tuesday morning we called DHQ and heard that no one entered the property during the night; all were safe.”

“No one would ever hurt the Army”
Busroe needed to go to the compound and meet with the staff. The divisional secretary agreed, so Major Carol Busroe, along with one of the Catholic sisters in the neighborhood, drove him as far as cars were allowed. Apprehensively, he started walking into the area; he immediately met people he knew; some even joined him for the walk to the compound.
For the next three hours Busroe met and prayed with staff. The stress of the weekend was beginning to show but they were all determined to stay at their posts.
On Wednesday, the office opened for about six hours and all the officers and most of the employee staff came to work. There were several gun battles that day in the neighborhood bordering divisional headquarters, but the area around the compound resumed some sense of calmness.

In the afternoon, one of the gang leaders came to divisional headquarters and told Captain Lamartiniere “no one in my gang would ever hurt The Salvation Army.” He had attended College Verena and the Army had helped him. He loved Major Haefeli and would never let anyone hurt the work she had started. No more threats have been made against the compound.

By Thursday, traffic in most of the city was approaching its normal gridlock. Banks and other businesses were open. Outwardly the situation appeared normal but everyone realized people armed with guns from all sides of the situation were seeking retaliatory revenge. The international peacekeepers have finally started to patrol some sections of the city and hopefully will provide additional security. Unfortunately, neither the police nor foreign troops will venture in the area around the Army compound.

“We were thankful to receive reports from five officers outside Port au Prince indicating their schools were closed but they were unharmed and the Army property had not been attacked,” said Busroe.
“We were especially happy to see two officers from the north, where rebels had been in control since February 5.”

Captain Elie Morisseau from Plaisance (also in the north) shared the story of his wife’s frightening trip home February 9-19. Emma came to Port au Prince to make the reports in February because women’s ministries reviews were due. She next traveled to the south to visit her mother, then back to Port au Prince. However, the car in which she was riding was stopped and vandalized. She safely returned to Fond des Negres that day and was able to go to Port au Prince the next week.

Since the road to the north was still closed she flew to Cap Haitien. She arrived at noon, and because Plaisance was only a one-hour drive from Cap Haitien, she expected to be home by 2:30 p.m.

Unfortunately, the rebels had closed the roads and Emma was forced to return and spend the night in Cap Haitien. During the night a group of armed men surrounded the hotel and threatened to burn it. The owner was suspected of being pro-opposition. They burned a building across the street and murdered a man in the street. Emma witnessed all of this and wanted to leave but the other hotel guests told her she would surely die if she tried to travel at night. The night ended without further incident and early the next morning Emma began walking home. She walked as far as Limbe and there was able to find someone with a motorcycle who took her home.

During this entire ordeal her family had no idea where she was, since the rebels had cut off the phone lines. Although tired and traumatized by the experience, Emma and her family are thankful to God for his protection.

“Please continue to pray that God will move in the hearts of the Haitian people,” said Caribbean Territorial Commander Colonel John Matear. “One officer said Haiti needs a spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation or this tragedy will be repeated again as it has so many times.”

One life at a time

One life at a time

Anthony Harris, a fifth grader, and his mother Cherie have been coming to the

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Larssons special guests in Chile

TAKING A BREAK from music are (l-r) top: Oscar Soto, Robinson Soto (bottom)

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