UMC Resolution on Haiti Asylum Seekers

( [email protected] ) May 14, 2004 06:35 PM EDT

The churches and people of Haiti have been among the top concerns of mainline churches across the States since the ousting of the country’s former president Aristide. Following those concerns, on May 5, during the deliberations of the 2-week-long General Conference of the United Methodist Church, the delegates passed a resolution calling on the U.S. to provide the needs of Haitian Asylum seekers.

"The U.S., by its own admission, is detaining Haitian asylum seekers in order to deter a mass exodus from Haiti and has a policy that is contrary to international law and applies it in a discriminatory fashion," the resolution charged.

According to the United Methodist resolution, Haitian families attempting to enter the United States are separated, with women and men held in jails "in deplorable conditions" alongside criminals. Haitians denied entry into the United States and deported are put at "great risk" when they return to their homeland.

Therefore, the church encouraged the States to give Haitian asylum seekers the full access to the asylums and resettlement opportunities. The resolution also calls on the U.S. government to assist Haitians who have fled to the neighboring Dominican Republic.

"We welcome the General Conference resolution," said the Rev. R. Randy Day, top staff executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. The agency has a long history of service ministries in Haiti, working with the autonomous Methodist Church of Haiti. "Knowing that the denomination is behind us strengthens our determination to work for justice and peace for the Haitian people."

Prior to the February uprising, some 700 United Methodists from the United States traveled to Haiti annually on mission volunteer teams. Through these teams, hundreds of Haitians benefited from churches, clinics and schools.

“The church has played an important role in providing education and health care to the Haitian people, but we shouldn’t stop there,” Edouard Paultre, the general secretary of the Protestant Federation of Haiti.