35 seconds. That’s how long the earthquake shook the nation of Haiti. In the hours after the 12 January earthquake, the international community mobilised to help. More than 140 nations were involved in the immediate rescue and response effort. United by common humanity, nations put their political divisions aside. The response exemplified that while our citizenship is defined by the country in which we live, we all are part of a larger community of global citizens that aid others in need. On Wednesday, 31 March, at the United Nations, more than 110 countries will come together again in support of the people of Haiti. The goal of the conference is to secure the foundation for Haiti’s recovery and reconstruction through pledges from all sources – public, private, non-governmental and multilateral institutions.
Supporting Haiti’s efforts to rebuild as a stronger nation will not be a short-term endeavor. The UN’s Post-Disaster Needs Assessment projects that it will take many years and $11.5 billion to rebuild Haiti. These monies are not on hand. That which was generously contributed in the days immediately following the emergency by people around the world, including the Government and people of Malta, has buried the dead, supplied emergency health services and provided food and shelter to meet the minimal needs of subsistence. The international commitment to Haiti must go beyond this emergency response. In this Holy Week, we are reminded how Jesus in his humanity fell multiple times on his way to Calvary. Simon of Cyrene would be compelled to assist while Veronica wiped the face of Jesus out of love and concern. Veronica’s uncoerced generosity is emblematic of Malta.
Individual contributions can be made to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund (http://clintonbushhaitifund.org/) which has been gathering donations for the rebuilding effort. Responsibly, Haiti has committed to use all the funds received in an inclusive, accountable, and transparent manner to rebuild homes, schools, and basic sanitation systems.
Over the past two and a half months, we have all seen images of Haiti. There have been many faces of despair and suffering, but also of resolve and resilience. The images have faded now as the media have moved on to other stories. The people and their great needs remain. We should no more let our efforts to support the rebuilding efforts in Haiti fade with the headlines any more than we allow the spirit and meaning of the resurrection to end on Easter Sunday.
Sometimes God signals us with our own words. America’s Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, for example, had occasion to comment well before the earthquake that “For some of us, Haiti is a neighbor, and for others of us, it is a place of historic and cultural ties. But for all of us, it is now a test of resolve and commitment.” Perhaps unknown to her, Mrs. Clinton’s call for personal “resolve and commitment” has long been aided by a very simple and direct prayer taught by missionaries in Haiti. The prayer makes personal that which can be hidden by staggering billion euro sums needed to help Haiti begin anew; the prayer: “Father, we have learned that one strong in calculation is a ‘mathematician.’ You are the greatest mathematician because You count everyone and never fail to see and know us each by name.”
The spiritual life story of San Gorg Preca begins with him encountering a young boy at the foot of the Marsa cross pushing a heavy cart. As Father Preca approaches, the young boy turns directly toward him and by name forcefully calls out to him to “Lend me a hand!”
The vocation of Father Preca was to experience, as he said, the “spiritual sweetness” of answering that call. Could it be that what Haiti asks is for Malta to continue to answer that call?
Douglas W. Kmiec is US Ambassador to Malta