Asks for prayers of the people of the Antilles for those in DR facing loss of national identity
The Antilles Episcopal Conference has become increasingly concerned over the situation and status of up to four generations of persons born in our sister Caribbean country of the Dominican Republic whose parents were born outside that country, mainly in Haiti.
Following a ruling of the Dominican Constitutional Court on 23 September of 2013, DR Bishop Rafael Leónidas Felipe Núñez of Barahona whose diocese is on the southern border separating that country from Haiti in a public statement lamented the Court decision, noting that "Many Haitians have come to the Dominican Republic and have remained here. They were born in Haiti, it is true, but after that they were brought up here and here they have raised their families. Some of them have lived in the country for 30 or 40 years, with a family. Others have been here for two generations, children and grandchildren, who were born here. If these people have been living in the country for such a long time they know nothing about Haiti, they are, therefore, Dominicans".
On 9 October 2013, the Assembly of superiors of all the religious congregations of the Dominican Republic issued a statement saying "We, Major Religious Superiors, are indignant at the ruling No. 0168/13 of the Constitutional Court of 23 September of 2013 and we condemn it unanimously and totally."
The heads of the Religious Orders noted that many of those impacted "have obtained their Identity Cards and electoral voting cards and have travelled with their Dominican passports, have married and have their marriage certificates, and now, all of a sudden, Ruling 0168 /13 of the Constitutional Court is denying them Dominican nationality. "
They quoted Exodus 3,7 "Yahweh then said, 'I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying for help on account of their taskmasters. Yes I am well aware of their sufferings'" and said that DR religious "cannot remain indifferent to the cry of God in the suffering and the exclusion of hundreds of thousands of Dominicans who are being affected by the ruling of the Constitutional Court."
They also recalled words of Pope Francis when he stressed that all human beings possess the same dignity. "The foundation of the dignity of the person does not lie in criteria of efficiency, productivity, social class, ethnicity or religious group, but in having been created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1, 26-27) and, moreover, in being children of God; every human being is a child of God." (The Pope's Message for World Migrants Day, 2013).
In the light of the Word of God, expressed solidarity with all those impacted by Ruling 0168/13 of the Constitutional Court, and "we raise our voices with their voices and demand that this ruling be annulled which gravely violates fundamental human rights, since no law can be more important than human beings, nor can it be applied retroactively."
The AEC shares the concerns and offers full prayerful support to the religious leaders and others in the Dominican Republic working generously and fearlessly to counter the impact that the legislation may have on tens of thousands of the very poorest and marginalised in the Dominican Republic. Christ urges us, "Whatever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do for me. .. In so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these you neglected to do it to me" (Matt 25, 31-45)
The AEC invites prayers of the people of the Antilles for the government and people of the Dominican Republic and most especially for those many thousands facing the uncertain future of loss of national identity.
The AEC which includes the dioceses of the CARICOM region, also urges the leadership of individual territories and CARICOM as a body to use their influence with the government of the Dominican Republic so that it may fully protect the rights and humanity of tens of thousands of the "least of its citizens", and to strive to prevent discrimination and abuse of those least able to protect themselves.
Issued by Archbishop Patrick Pinder of Nassau, Bahamas
President of Antilles Episcopal Conference
15 November 2013
Contact and for additional information
Deacon Mike James AEC General Secretary
Sent from my BlackBerry® device from Digicel