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Neighbors in Partnership

Written by Tim Rose
September 4, 2012

The islands of Guadeloupe and Haiti share many commonalities. Both are situated in the Caribbean, both are bi-lingual, speaking French and Creole, and both share the painful history of a French-run slave economy.

While the two islands’ early colonial history was similar, their destinies started to part ways in the early nineteenth century. In 1804, after a bloody slave revolt against French rule, Haiti became the first independent nation of Latin America and the Caribbean, the first black-led republic in the world, and the second republic, after the USA, in the Americas.

Guadeloupe, on the other hand, remained a part of the French Republic. In 1848 France abolished slavery in its colonies and, over time, Guadeloupe evolved into a French Overseas Department with Guadeloupians eventually obtaining all the rights of French citizens.

Today, Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world. Guadeloupe, while being one of the poorest departments in France, benefits from an infrastructure and economy supported heavily by France and has an overall standard of living better than many of its Caribbean neighbors.

Cultural and economic links between the two islands are still very strong. Many Haitians live and work in Guadeloupe and have married into the Guadeloupian population and Creole culture has facilitated the sharing and exchange of music, artists and literature.

Given these strong ties between the islands, the Protestant Reformed Church of Guadeloupe and the Protestant Federation of Haiti have cultivated a relationship over the last few years that has included visits from both sides.

In particular, the church in Guadeloupe has entered into a partnership with a local parish in Port-au-Prince.  The parish, located in one of the poorer parts of the Haitian capitol, was heavily damaged in the 2010 earthquake. Today the church is not only rebuilding, it is struggling to run a small elementary school and an orphanage.

During a visit to Haiti in March, members of the church in Guadeloupe had the opportunity to visit their partner parish and spend some time with the children at the orphanage. Before the earthquake the parish was taking care of seven children. After the earthquake, they took responsibility for fifty children; 25 of them live in the homes of the churches parishioners while 25 are in their small, three-bedroom orphanage.

In an effort to help the church in Haiti in their mission, the church in Guadeloupe has committed itself to providing clothes, medicine and financial support to the orphanage.

As followers of Christ, we are called to regard all people as brothers and sisters. This radical call to love and solidarity transcends geography and nationality.  While the church in Guadeloupe is small, and already engaged in trying to respond to the many needs of the Guadeloupian population, this small gesture of solidarity with its sister island has become one of the foundations of the churches mission.

Tim Rose serves with The Protestant Reformed Church of Guadeloupe and Martinique.

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