Saturday, June 5, 2010

In Memory of Father Gerard Jean-Juste

By Wadner Pierre

One year ago, Father Gerard Jean-Juste, who was like an adoptive father to me for many years, passed away after a courageous fight with leukemia. I'm happy anytime I can write down some  wise words he used to say to me and other boys who lived in the Sainte  Claire’s parish atop a hill in the community of Ti Plas Kazo  (Petite Place Cazeau). I am honoured to have been part of this great  man’s life, one of the icons of Haiti’s struggle. I lived with him since1997  as his right-hand altar boy until his lovely father, the Almighty God, called  him on May 27th, 2009 at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida.

To begin the Eucharistic celebration, Father Jean-Juste made the  community aware of what was going on nationally and internationally. Some  people called him the reporter, and others called him a journalist priest. He liked to talk about school, church, and politics but, as a  realist, he knew that the body needs nourishment as well as the mind and soul. He always said, “ Pray, Study and Eat.” At the  Sainte Claire’s Rectory feeding program funded by What If? Foundation, he always  asked the children who come to eat, “What did Jesus ask?” and the children  replied “Food for the kids.”

We had a show on Radio Ginen called, Ginen Dizyem (Ginen Tenth) where  Haitians who live overseas could call and gave their opinions. Sometimes, Father Gerry (as he was known) asked callers to greet their families  wherever they are in Haiti. Through this show, he was able to engage  the Haitian public in a way that most radio journalists do not. I helped  put on the show. In the last broadcast, he appealed for peace while rebels led by former police chief Guy Philippe,were on a murderous rampage  in the Central, North and Artibonite departments.

Though Father Jean-Juste was a supporter of former President Jean-Bertrand  Aristide, he made sure that, as a follower of Jesus, he spoke the gospel to those who did not share the same political views. Fanaticism did not  guide Father Jean-Juste’s life. He was a wise man.  As the majority of  Haitians believe, Father Jean-Juste believed that Aristide had a positive  vision for Haiti, and that it was important to support him.

During the turbulent political period that ravaged the country form 2000 to
2004, Father Jerry's message was a basic appeal for decency:

“My brothers do not kill your people. They are not your enemies. It  is ok
for us to have different opinions, but when it is about Haiti, let us put 
our little interest aside.”

He was a man that had an idea that appealed to the best in  Haitians. He
died for a cause that everybody knows: Justice for the victims  of repression, equality among the Haitian people, and a better life for the poorest of poor.

“Whether you are rich or poor, we are all Haitians and the children of 
Jesus,” he would say.

Wherever Haitians are not treated fairly, he made sure that the world 
knew. He was a wonderful spokesman for the Haitian community whether in the  United States and Canada. He was the voice of the voiceless. After the 2004 coup  d’état when the U.N soldiers (MINUSTAH) were killing people in the popular  districts, he was the only Catholic priest to denounce  the massacres. He did his best to give the victims a proper burial.  The authorities of the Catholic Church did agree with him  - and punished  him - because most of them supported the coup and were part of the de facto  government led by Gerard Latortue.

Father Gerry chose to stay in Haiti after the  coup of  February 29, 2004, despite considerable risk. He was twice imprisoned by the de facto government. Until the very end, he remained faithful to  his people and his friends. Father Jean-Juste’s legacy is continued through me  and his other close friends like Lavarice Gaudin, and everybody who is dreaming of a better Haiti.

If father Jean-Juste were alive, what he would say to the earthquake 
survivors? What he would say to the international and Haitian government 
bureaucracies? Father Jean-Juste is no longer there with us, but I am sure he would say

“ Take care of people first and send the U.N soldiers home and use this 
money to rebuild Haiti.”

If only he were alive today.

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