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Open letter to our brother, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide

March 4, 2011
Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has lived in exile in South Africa since he was kidnapped in Haiti by U.S. Marines on Feb. 29, 2004.

Note from attorney Walter Riley of the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund regarding this letter: In a letter to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide posted on the Huffington Post blog of Jesse Jackson and Rainbow PUSH Coalition, a group of religious leaders declared solidarity with President Aristide. At a time when the United States, Brazil, France and Canada are pressuring the South African government to not allow President Aristide to leave South Africa, all expressions of solidarity mean a lot to him and to the mass movement in Haiti. Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane of South Africa, where Aristide is living in a guarded government guesthouse, said officials there were “consulting with all interested parties to facilitate his return back home at the appropriate time.” Who is there to consult? President Aristide, the leader of the largest democratic movement in Haiti represents a contrast to the attempt to return to Duvalier politics in Haiti. The two candidates being imposed on Haiti in the March 20, 2011, election were not selected by the Election Council, but selected by the U.S. State Department. Both have a history of support for Duvalier politics. Haiti human rights attorney Mario Joseph and Brian Concannon, Institute for Justice and Democracy , document that the Election Council did not select the two candidates from the sham election of last fall where Lavalas and other parties were not allowed on the ballot. Lavalas is the party of the vast majority of the people by all accounts. President Aristide wants to return to Haiti and South Africa now has to decide if he can leave. The letter is printed below:

To Our Brother, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide:

We wish to extend to you our full support for your return to your beloved homeland, Haiti.

As people of faith, we know that the road to democracy and justice is not an easy one. These years of enforced exile have been painful – not only for you and your family, but for the people of Haiti. We join the call from all over the world for this exile to end.

The poor of Haiti, those you have represented with such tenacity and dignity over all these years, continue to demand your presence. We hear their voices and we join their call.

In the strongest terms, we urge the United States government to cease its opposition to your return. There can be no democratic development while a democratically elected leader is banished. And there can be no true reconstruction without the participation of the majority of Haiti’s people.

In the aftermath of the terrible earthquake of 2010, your return will provide hope and lift spirits. Please know that when you get to Haiti, we will be there with you.

You are in our hearts and in our prayers.

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr.

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Archdiocese of Detroit

Rev. Phil Lawson, Interfaith Program Director, East Bay Housing Organizations

Rev. C.T. Vivian, Civil Rights Activist, Atlanta, Georgia

Rev. Sir John Alleyne, Church of England, U.K.

Dr. Amer Araim, Dar-ul-Islam Mosque, Concord California

Father Roy Bourgeois, Founder, SOA Watch

Kathy Boylan, Catholic Worker, Washington, D.C.

Rev. Dr. Lorenzo Carlisle, Pastor, Faith Healing Prayer Deliverance Christian Center, Oakland, California

Rabbi David J. Cooper and Rabbi Burt Jacobson, Kehilla Community Synagogue*, Oakland, California

Sister Maureen Duignan, OSF, Executive Director, East Bay Sanctuary Covenant

Father Renaud Francois, Montreal, Canada

Sister Stella Goodpasture, OP, Justice Promoter, Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose

Dr. Jacqueline Grant, Womanist and Director of Systematic Theology, Interdenominational Theological Center, Atlanta, Georgia

Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler, Senior Pastor, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, Washington, D.C., and National President, Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic Justice of the United Church of Christ

Father Lawrence Lucas, Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church, Harlem, N.Y.

Rev. Dr. Carolyn McCrary, Womanist and Director of Pastoral Care, Interdenominational Theological Center, Atlanta, Georgia

Rev. Paul Nicolson, Chair, Zacchaeus 2000, UK

Dr. Itihari Ture, Director of Center for African Biblical Studies, DeKalb County, Georgia

Mama Zogbe, Chief Priestess, Mami Wata Healers Society of North America

Mamissii Makena Zannu, Priestess, Mami Wata Healers Society

Rev. Dr. Nozomi Ikuta, Interfaith Prisoners of Conscience Project

*for identification purposes only

This open letter was forwarded by the Haiti Action Committee, www.haitisolidarity.net and on Facebook. It was originally posted on the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition website and on Rev. Jackson’s Huffington Post blog.

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