World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Release
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E-mail: media

9 May 2000

Ecumenical Solidarity and Practical Aid
First visit to Haiti by a WCC general secretary

The general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Dr Konrad Raiser, will be visiting Haiti from 11 to 14 May, when he will meet representatives of the Haitian churches and learn at first hand about the life of the churches there and the country's social situation. This will be the first visit to Haiti by a WCC general secretary.

Originally planned for October of last year, the visit by the ecumenical delegation had to be postponed because of a hurricane.

Raiser's visit comes at a time of mounting social and political tension. In recent weeks the Haitian Protestant Federation (HPF) has addressed two messages to the nation. On 20 March, the HPF warned of a "serious crisis" that threatened "to plunge the Haitian nation into total chaos". The communiqué says, "The impoverishment of the population, the unstoppable decline in the value of the country's currency, the steadily deteriorating quality of life, the increasingly unacceptable social inequalities add up to a situation which can no longer be tolerated." Amongst other aspects, the HPF also stresses the prime importance of elections in the democratic process.

In a joint message on 3 April of this year, the Haitian Bishops' Conference and the HPF called on the country's government to guarantee that both the legislative power and local authorities would be legally reinstalled on the second Monday in June 2000, in accordance with the constitution. Raiser will raise the matter in his conversation with the President of the Republic, René Préval, and support the line taken by the Haitian churches. Meetings with members of the political opposition are also planned.

The WCC general secretary will also meet the general secretary of the HPF, Edouard Paultre, and other HPF representatives, as well as the president of the Roman Catholic Bishops' Conference of Haiti, Mgr Hubert Constant.

The WCC has no direct member churches in Haiti; Anglicans and Methodists belong to it through their respective world church bodies. Until now, Raiser says, a majority of the Protestant churches in Haiti have been somewhat reserved in their attitude to the organized ecumenical movement, being traditionally evangelical in tendency. Apart from that, many of them do not have a large enough membership to be eligible for official membership of the WCC.

In his meetings with representatives of the HPF Raiser hopes to "explore the possibilities for more open working relations". Concretely, it is a matter of bringing ecumenical solidarity and practical aid to the people of this poverty-stricken country, Raiser said shortly before his departure.

Updates on Dr Konrad Raiser's visit will be available in English, French and Spanish.

For more information contact:
the Media Relations Office
tel.: (+41 22) 791 6153 (office);
e-mail: media
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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 337, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.