Faith leaders, elected officials, and members of Boston’s Haitian community gathered at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Mattapan on a cloudy Sunday afternoon to pray for Haiti after the assassination of its president this month.
The vigil, hosted by the nonprofit Haitian Americans United Inc., comes after the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse by a group of men who the country’s government identified as mostly foreign mercenaries. Moïse’s wife, Martine, was injured in the attack on their home in a suburb of Port-au-Prince and was flown to a Miami hospital for treatment. She returned to Haiti on Saturday.
The Rev. Dieufort Fleurissaint, chairman of Haitian Americans United, said in an interview that the community wanted to condemn the “widespread violence” in Haiti and bring Haitian friends and allies together to call for peace.
“We wanted to come tonight to pray and to appeal to God for his intervention, for peace to reign in Haiti, but more importantly, also to help Haitians process the situation that Haiti is going through and also the diaspora is going through,” he said.
Fleurissaint said Haitian-Americans in the Boston area are “transnational” and that Moïse’s assassination affected Haitian families in Boston “very deeply.”
“[We are] always eager and always hope for changes and relief for Haitian families — and just to be able to travel without any fear to this country,” he said. “We always hope for the well-being of Haiti.”
Acting Mayor Kim Janey, alongside faith leaders and elected officials including City Councilor Andrea Campbell and state Senator Nick Collins, joined the roughly 50 people at the church, formerly known as St. Angela Merici Parish.
Janey said they were present to “stand in solidarity with Haiti” and offer their support to the residents of the island and Haitian-Americans in Boston.
“I have faith this Sunday and every single day because I see the power of unity and strength of our people when we are united. I see the resilience of the Haitian community in particular — the Haitian people who have been leaders in this world, fighting for liberation, fighting for unity,” Janey said.
Haitian authorities arrested Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a physician originally from Haiti who lives in Florida, for allegedly having a key role in Moïse’s killing. Police said of the 28 suspects, 20 have been arrested and three were killed.
The assassination followed years of political turmoil, corruption, and violence in Haiti.
After Moïse took office in 2017, he began to silence opposition to his rule. Disagreements with other leaders left Haiti without a Parliament at the beginning of 2020, and now armed gangs have seized control of parts of Haiti and are inflicting violence on civilians.
At the vigil in Mattapan, which is home to a large Haitian population, clergy from several faiths came together with community members to pray for the island.
Imam Abdullah Faaruuq, the leader of the Mosque for the Praising of Allah in Roxbury, said he had hope for the country’s people who have “survived” a hard past.
“I believe Haiti has a great future, not because of the politics but because of the people,” he said.
Elizabeth Victor, a member of the parish, said she was “very happy” to see an outpouring of support for her native country at Sunday’s vigil because “that means people still care for Haiti.”
Ruthzee Louijeune, an at-large candidate for Boston City Council, said she grew up in the Haitian community in Boston. Louijeune said the fight for peace in Haiti is “personal” for Haitian-Americans.
“Even though Haiti suffers from man-made disasters and natural disasters, we can’t abandon the idea of hope. I believe that progress and change is possible in the island,” she said. “It has been a beacon of hope for so many, and it can be that [again] one day if we work together.”
Alexandra Chaidez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.