Archive for January, 2015

Democracy and Development

As international attention was focused on Haiti Monday – the fifth anniversary of the earthquake – another milestone was reached. The terms of one third of Senators expired on Monday at midnight, along with all 99 seats in the House of Deputies. An additional one third of Senator’s terms expired in 2012. Late Sunday evening President Michel Martelly announced a deal to organize elections – three years overdue already – by the end of this year. However, the main opposition party was not included in that agreement. Whether those elections will actually be organized remains to be seen, with the threat of President Martelly ruling by decree, a hard pill to swallow for Haitians who have endured dictators in the past.

To gather a better understanding of the current situation, it is important to review the most recent election in Haiti, which took place in late 2010, with a second round early in 2011. Those elections were marked by chaos with ultimately less than a quarter of eligible voters casting a vote and widespread accusations of fraud. Martelly became President through this process and has failed to organize elections over the last four years of his presidency. As the country continues to rebuild following the earthquake, this political instability is hindering progress.

The public outcry over this situation has been steadily building for several months, as attempts to organize elections have failed time and again. International response to this situation has been tepid at best – the US Ambassador issued a “strongly worded” statement encouraging the government to organize elections and there is little international attention around an upcoming visit by the UN Security Council focused on finalizing elections.

Meanwhile, the Quixote Center’s partners in Gros Morne are continuing to work training farmers and local communities without the benefit of local government infrastructure. At the start of the last school year, the national government abruptly changed its policy of providing lunch to all school children to only supplying lunch for those children in government schools. This left parochial and private school in the lurch, despite the fact that they educate over half of Haitian children, and has already had significant impact on the children attending these schools. Without a functioning Ministry of Education, our partners are stuck in how to address this issue on a broad scale. We will be working to assist our partners in addressing this issue and encourage our supporters to bring attention to the political situation in Haiti.

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Speaking Out in the age of Pope Francis

The tone of the conversation about reforming the Catholic Church has shifted dramatically since the Benedict years. Pope Francis has managed to completely change the dynamic of the Church’s relationship with its followers and the broader world community. Many folks who have been working for years to bring social justice issues to the front of the Vatican’s agenda are inspired to hear messages from the Pontiff that affirm their efforts. From his ground breaking “Who am I to judge?” comment last year to his role in the recent move to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba he has shifted the role of the church to a participant in conversation around social issues.

While there has been little evidence of increased church attendance, there have been many reports of increased enthusiasm – even coining the phrase the “Pope Francis Effect” and the social media hashtag #bestpopeever. However, in terms of doctrine, not much has really been changed. The recent report released on the state of American women religious had a vague recommendation from Pope Francis to create more opportunities for a stronger female presence in the church, but no concrete suggestions. Perhaps the largest concrete shift has been the call for the church to welcome gays, divorced and remarried couples and their families.

We welcome and appreciate the change in tone, the focus on social justice and the willingness to discuss modern concerns. However, we at the Quixote Center believe much more remains to be done. We advocate for women’s ordination and a married priesthood. We desire a democratic Church. We pray that the first female Pontiff has already been born. We hope over the course of his tenure as pope, Pope Francis will initiate some of these concrete steps to strengthen his legacy from gifted orator to a true champion of social justice.

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  • Quixote Center
    7307 Baltimore Ave.
    Ste 214
    College Park, MD 20740
  • Office: 301-699-0042

Direction to office:

For driving: From Baltimore Ave (Route 1) towards University of Maryland, turn right onto Hartwick Rd. Turn immediate right in the office complex.

Look for building 7307. We are located on the 2nd floor.

For public transportation: We are located near the College Park metro station (green line)