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Caminante Proyecto Educativo and The Religious Community of the Dominican Republic

February 20, 2014

take a stand for Human Rights in response to Court Decision 168-2013

On September 23rd, 2013 the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic passed Judgment No. 0168-2013 that will strip people, who were previously legal citizens of the Dominican Republic, of their citizenship based on heritage. The court decision refers to those born after 1929, most of who are of Haitian decent and whose families were trafficked to the Dominican Republic to work in sugar cane plantations and/or construction industry. The court decision defines 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation children of Haitian decent and residents of the Dominican for up to 80 years as “in transit” back to their “native country,” Haiti. Those affected were born in the Dominican Republic and have spent their entire lives with Dominican birth certificates and passports.  They will be stripped of citizenship and nationality, resulting in civil rights violations of crisis of legal identity and the loss of opportunities to study, work, travel, marry, and move freely. With decision 168-2013 the Dominican Republic violates international agreements. Caminante Proyecto Educativo and Director, Denisse Pichardo is standing with the religious communities in defense of a historically oppressed group of people.

CONDOR, a conference of religious leaders in the Dominican Republic wrote a press release on October 9th, 2013 stating its “unanimous condemnation” of the decision that strips people of basic human rights based on racist sentiments. They also shared sympathy for and solidarity with those who are affected by the judgment. CONDOR’s statement quoted Pope Francis’ message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees to be given on January 2014, “Here we find the deepest foundation of the dignity of the human person, which must always be respected and safeguarded. It is less the criteria of efficiency, productivity, social class, or ethnic or religious belonging which ground that personal dignity, so much as the fact of being created in God’s own image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26-27) and, even more so, being children of God. Every human being is a child of God! He or she bears the image of Christ!”

The Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI) also released a letter to Dominican President, Danilo Medina Sánchez on October 22nd, 2013. The CLAI represents 20 Latin American Countries and in the DR alone represents two Global Ministries Partners: Iglesias Evangelica Dominicana and el Servicio Social de Iglesias Dominicanas (SSID).  The CLAI stated their refusal of court decision 168-2013 and reminded the President that in September 2005 the Inter-American Court on Human Rights found the Dominican Republic guilty of an illegal attempt to strip the rights and nationality of two Dominican born girls of Haitian decent. The council respected the Nation’s ability to write migration law, but confirmed that it is inhumane and illegal under the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to refuse nationality of those born in the Dominican solely based on the foreigner status of their decedents.

In a third response from the Christian community, a Coalition of Catholic Priests reminded the nation of three separate laws in contrast to the newly decided 168-2013: Article 18.2 of the Dominican Constitution states that nationality and legal protections are determined at time and place of birth. The Constitution also states that it is illegal to increase the vulnerability of the poor (Article 74.4) and to create retroactive laws that revoke previously given rights (Article 110). The priests strongly stated that affected people are, without doubt, brothers and sisters in Christ and equally part of the Dominican people. They finished by saying that it is the duty of the Christian Community to enforce justice and brotherhood and to uplift the poor and the oppressed, “God upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry… the Lord lifts” (Psalm 146, 7-9).

The religious community of the Dominican Republic will stand in opposition to racism and the violation of human rights. They will continue to protest court decision 168-2013 while working to protect and support those affected by the decision. Caminante Proyecto Educativo, as a Christian organization, will continue to promote, educate, and protect the internationally given rights children regardless of race, religion, decent, nationality, or lack of legal status. 

Ashley Holst

Ashley Holst serves as a Global Mission Intern with Proyecto Caminante in the Dominican Republic. Her ministry is possible because of funds provided by Week of Compassion of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  She works with the children in Caminante’s Outreach Ministry. 

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