Peace, Love and Reconciliation

DSC02607I have been invited to tell you my experience with Pax Christi by sharing a story that would allow readers to connect and gain insight into Pax Christi’s mission of creating cultures of peace and reconciliation. Instead of focusing strictly on what was asked, I have opted to tell you how I became acquainted with Pax Christi and also some qualities that I have discovered in the people who are part of this organisation. These qualities have made such a deep impression on me that they ultimately motivated me to become a member of Pax Christi.

Truth, Objectivity and Accuracy

My first experience with Pax Christi International has been in the 80’s. A Pax Christi delegation had come to visit Haiti to gather first-hand information about the situation.  As Secretary General of Caritas Haiti, I was among the people that the delegation had met and interviewed. A few weeks later, I received the result of their findings, published as a small booklet entitled: “Mission to Haiti.”  I was genuinely surprised to realize how a small delegation that had been in Haiti for a short time had grasped such a good knowledge and understanding of the situation. Of course, they had done their homework prior traveling but during their stay, they had clearly made an effort to visit different places and to meet a wide range of people. Pax Christi International had produced the booklet to inform its members and also as a tool for lobbying about the situation in Haiti.  But, because the analysis was correct, we have been able to use the same tool in Haiti as an eye opener on our own situation.

Trust, Respect and Values

At the beginning of the eighties, I received an invitation from Pax Christi USA to make a speaking tour across the USA.  I accepted gladly the invitation because it was an opportunity to know the organisation better.  Also, because I was eager to tell the American people how their electoral choice impacted not only on their own lives but also on the people of my country.  For example, while Jimmy Carter was in power and made emphasis on the respect of Human Rights, the government of Duvalier in Haiti seemed to accept the existence of trade unions in Haiti and also to tolerate a small amount of criticism. But, as soon as Ronald Reagan was elected President of the USA to replace Carter, even before Reagan took the oath, the military in Haiti had put a violent stop to all attempts of the Haitian people to exercise freedom of expression. Most of the radio stations were shut down or destroyed.  A lot of trade unionists and journalists were put in jail and a great number of them were sent to exile.  An institute that I had set up, together with other colleagues, was sacked. The director was among the people who were arrested and sent to exile. I, myself, had to spend several weeks into hiding, knowing nothing about my husband and my children.

It is after such an experience that, responding to the invitation of Pax Christi USA, I flew to the Miami International airport to retrieve a special “accordion ticket” that could be used only by foreigners who were willing to visit a minimum of 10 of the 50 states in America. For several weeks I traveled from one US city to another, explaining the situation in Haiti and repeating my call to the American people. At each airport I was greeted by some local Pax Christi members who welcomed me warmly, drove me to a meeting place, to their office or to my accommodation place for the day where we ate and shared views before driving me back to the airport.

What I want to underline here is not so much the story itself but the fact that for such a situation to happen, a lot of trust has to be built within and also across the members of the organisation. Most of the people that I met did not know me before. Still, they were ready to provide meals, share their knowledge and experience, and even welcome me inside their home! The same is true for me, who kept moving from one place to another not knowing where I will sleep next, relying only on the trust that I had placed on the Pax Christi USA secretariat.

Prayer, Analysis and Action

The local Pax Christi organisations that I got to know during my 10 states visit were differed in size (number of people) and financial means. Some could afford having their own office, others gathered at a meeting place that could be a school or a parish room. The meetings themselves were long or short… Pax Christi members were from different states, belonging to diverse social groups. These people were influenced by their local cultures and this is why some meetings and ceremonies were warmer, livelier and more colorful than others. What I could not fail to notice, however, is that in all the meetings and gatherings that I attended, the three pillars of Pax Christi, were always present: Prayer, Analysis and Action.The ability to adjust and adapt to the situation of different people around the globe while maintaining intact its core values is, in my opinion, one of the strong assets of Pax Christi International. People are different so what has struck and attracted me to Pax Christi may not appeal to you the same way. What is sure, however, is that the world that we all live in is in deep need of Peace, Love and Reconciliation. We all have a role to play but because each of us unique you have a special role to play; a unique gift that ONLY YOU can bring. 

Claudette Werleigh,

Former Secretary-General of Pax Christi International

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