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Staying positive after disaster: Haiti's Bishop Jean Zache Duracin

Just days after the devastating January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Bishop Jean Zache Duracin, of the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti, shared his experience and the silver linings that have come from the tragedy.

The rectory Bishop Duracin was living in was destroyed. His wife was severely injured and he and his daughters escaped death by a thread. All of it, he says, has only made his faith stronger.

And, he says, the quake has made the church’s resiliency shine.

Below is an excerpt from a February interview with Duracin in his Port-au-Prince home.

Q. Where were you when the earthquake occurred?

A. I was in my house when it happened. I can tell you that it was a miracle of God so I can be saved and talk today. At the time I was in my car (in the garage) listening to the news, and then someone came to my house. When I saw him, I left the car and went to him. Some minutes after that the earthquake came and even now, we cannot see the car. It’s a miracle, God’s miracle.

Q. People here seem to be resilient and hopeful. How do you sustain that hope?

A. Usually Haitian people are people of hope. They hope for a better future. The church has lost everything that it has; all the buildings are down. In all this, at the site of churches, you can go every Sunday and find many people gathered for worship. The church is there even though there are no buildings. We are there, the people are there.

Q. What positive things do you think can come out of this disaster?

A. Any time something bad happens, we have to look for the opportunities it has created. Bad things happened, yes. Many people died, yes. We have lost everything, but we have to look beyond that. We have to correct the hatred, divisions, fighting one against another and work together for the benefit of all Haitian people. We have to fight against our individualism, selfishness, and learn how to talk about sharing what we have and what we have to do to rebuild the country.

Q. Many religious groups have responded to the earthquake by bringing aid to Haiti. What’s the best way for these people to help?

A. I think they have to be careful. I have seen so many people and groups of people come to help, but I think when groups of people from outside come to help, they first have to listen. If you listen to people you will better understand their needs and how it will help them.

Q. Many people are unable to travel to Haiti. What can they do from the United States to help?

A. They can still help where they are. Send equipment. Send money to people who are here, working at institutions. They may not be able to come, but they can still be helpful. And we want prayers; that’s important.

Q. Many organizations are working to make Haitians physically healthy again. What about their emotional and spiritual health?

A. I think we need some psychologists to come to help us, not just physical doctors, but psychiatrists and psychologists, and churches too. We have been there; we have been witness to all that has happened. We need psychiatrists who were not here, priests who were not here, to come and to help. Everybody has lost something, even though physically we have our members, our leg, our arm, but we have lost something and we cannot continue to live as before.

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