Sunday, January 17, 2010

Haitians Seek Solace in Prayer

From The New York Times today:

"With their churches flattened, their priests killed and their Bibles lost amid the rubble of their homes, desperate Haitians prayed in the streets on Sunday, raising their arms in the air and asking God to ease their grief.

Outside the city’s main cathedral, built in 1750 but now a giant pile of twisted metal, shattered stained glass and cracked concrete, parishioners held a makeshift service at the curb outside, not far from where scores of homeless people were camping out in a public park. The bishop’s sermon of hope was a hard sell, though, as many listening had lost their relatives, their homes and their possessions.

'We have to keep hoping,' said Bishop Marie Eric Toussant, although he acknowledged that he had no resources to help his many suffering parishioners and did not know whether the historic cathedral would ever be rebuilt. He said the quake had toppled the residences where priests stayed, crushing many of them.

Baptized at the cathedral, Jean Viejina, 68, said she had visited the church every Sunday morning for as long as she can remember, using it to help her endure what she described as a challenging life raising six children. Now, even this place of refuge, like so much in Port-au-Prince, was gone...

(Episcopal Bishop Zache) Duracin said organization and survival were still the priorities for both people and institutions.

'Most of the churches are down,' he said, estimating that more than 100 of the 140 Episcopal churches here had collapsed. 'There is almost no place for worship or prayer.'

People are afraid to go into buildings, including churches, that did not collapse, he said, including himself. His home was completely destroyed, so he was sleeping one of the red Coleman tents that he distributed to about 40 families.

He said that since the earthquake, he had not given a single sermon and was still trying to figure out what to say. When asked what parts of the Bible he had been contemplating lately, he answered quickly: 'Job,' he said.

Like Job, who persevered through death and destruction, Bishop Duracin said he hoped that Haiti would soon find a way to continue living.

'We have to look for opportunities from the disaster,' he said. 'We have to mourn. We have to suffer. But we have to get up because life has to continue.'"

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