Posted by: dominicanoutreach | May 26, 2009

Landmark Human Rights Brief FIled

Volunteer Service in the DR


People of Haitian decent and Haitian immigrants live in fear every day that they may be deported to a country on the other end of the island of Hispaniola where many of them were neither born nor do they know the language nor have they ever lived. Some of the children in the picture above are of Haitian decent and have been here for three generations. Imagine that Americans of Swedish decent were targeted for deportation at any time without right to trial or appeal. To get back to the United States they would have to pay huge fines only to find when they return that their homes and property have been confiscated.


This happens every week in the Dominican Republic. It is an outrage. A few months ago, 50 families of Haitian decent, some Haitian immigrants, and even a few Dominican were rounded up by police in a village east of Puerto Plata and trucked across the border to Haiti. This was done in revenge for the murder and robbery of a Dominican taxi dirver. The homes of these people were taken over by Dominican families.


Today I spoke with Professor Caroline Bettinger Lopez of Columbia Law School about filing an Amicus Brief to a lawsuit they have filed against the Dominican government.


Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic, the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), the Movement of Dominican-Haitian Women (MUDHA), and the Haitian Support Group for Refugees and Repatriated Persons (GARR) jointly filed a landmark human rights law brief against the Dominican Republic on behalf of 28 Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent. They charge the Dominican Republic with violating international human rights law through its policy of mass expulsions, and seek an end to routine deportations without notice or a fair hearing by Dominican immigration authorities. The brief was filed before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), in Washington, D.C.  Dominican Outreach and a few other NGOs hope to join this suit.


This summer, law students from Columbia Law will be in country to develop a plan for futher work in this field of human rights. Dominican Outreach will meet and participate with this noble effort.


11:31 AMMay. 26, 2009

Closed Door for the Poor,the Immigrant, and Stranger

Volunteer Service in the DR

Associated with arbitrary and mass detention of migrant workers in the DOminican Republic is the threat of expulsion, especially as the right to challenge the decision to detain or a decision to expel them may not be granted. For example, Haitians living and working in the Dominican Republic are regularly targeted by immigration officers for identity checks and may end up in detention where they can be subjected to ill-treatment and on occasion mass expulsion without access to due process.

Sometimes Dominican immigration officers refuse to recognize documents that are, in fact, valid. The problem is so wide-reaching that it also affects thousands of Dominican children of Haitian descent, who despite being Dominican nationals are treated as irregular migrants.

Eight-year-old Matilde [not her real name] was among six children rounded up by immigration officers from the street in Santo Domingo (the capital of the Dominican Republic) on 4 January 2006. She was beaten so hard by a migration officer that her mouth bled. She was held in Vacacional de Haina detention centre outside Santo Domingo where she was reported to have been verbally abused and threatened by immigration officers. Matilde was released the next day when a human rights activist brought proof of her Dominican nationality to the migration office.

The International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (Migrant Workers Convention) seeks to promote and protect the rights of migrant workers. As one of the core international human rights treaties, its purpose is to provide specific recognition of the human rights of all migrant workers and members of their families. Among the many rights protected by the Convention is the right of migrants workers and their family members to liberty and security of person and their protection from arbitrary arrest or detention.


10:57 AMMay. 26, 2009

Preach the Gospel and If you must, use words

Volunteer Service in the DR

Preach the Gospel and if you must, use words.


This is a phrase falsely attributed to St. Francis who was a preacher and used words all the time. Let us look at what this phrase means that has so resonated with so any Christians.

The word Gospel means Good News. For the poor, the abandoned, and those who live on the margins of society the Good News for them is rice and beans, a new mattress, clean water, a birth certificate,  or an opportunity to go to school. When you do not have food, water, identity, or and education, words do not means much. When you are hungry, tired, sick, and abandoned by society words seem like a hollow echo. It is not that words are not important. In fact, when I deliver a mattress or help a person find a job, or give school supplies it is amazing how the recipient clings to my every word. The power and depth of the Gospel begins with action and is cemented with words.

Today we received Good News from Brad Munn, Monroe Doerkson,and the community of their church in Bradon, Manitoba that they are fully committed to building a school for Maria to be completed by Christimas. Also a few days ago I spoke to Joanne Lamont in Calgary who is also inspired to work toward the building of the school for Maria. These are people who know that actions preceed the word, especially for the poor.

Yet, the Gospel of John says, “In the beginning was the Word…” I understand this to mean that the Word must first be in the hearts of those who roll up their sleeves and carry out the mission to take the Good News to all the world. It is only because the Word lives in my heart, not because of my doing or righteousness, but because of a profound sense of gratitude that fills me when I pray, that I work in the barrios, pueblos,bateys, and slums of Puerto Plata.

I feel it is like visiting the home of a beloved friend. First I will prepare a gift, perhaps a book I have written, or a dish of food I hve prepared, and then offer it at the doorway of my friend. Any words I have for my friend carry greater power and meaning because the acts of writing or cooking means I have done something for them long before I arrived.

10:56 AMMay. 22, 2009

500 People of Immigrants Gather for Prayer

Volunteer Service in the DR


The largest immigrant community in modern times to come to the Dominican Republic is the Lebanese/Syrian Christians after the collpase of the Ottoman Empire. In the 1920s and 30s nearly 20 thousand Lebanese came to this island, learned Spanish and blended into the population but they never forgot their heritage. They quickly became the elite of the island.

  • Salvador Jorge Blanco (Syrian origin), former President of Dominican Republic
  • Julio Hazim (Lebanese origin), Important Dominican Businessman
  • Jacobo Majluta (Lebanese origin), former President of Dominican Republic
  • Andres Dauhajre (Syrian origin), prominent Dominican Economist 

     Father Andreas, a Lebanese priest from Santo Domingo, and I began communicating a couple of months ago. Today we offered a service of prayer in Arabic, Aramaic, and Spanish to Dominicans of Lebanese/Syrian/ and Palestinian origin. 500 people showed up,television camera, and newspaper reporters. Families with names like Khoury (which means priest in Arabic and Aramaic), Musa (Moses),Jacob, Hadad, and many others came to celebrate before God their life in diaspora. This refugee population has contributed greatly to the island and are major engineers, owners of cement factories, economists, and a large number of political leaders. Walter Musa for example is the mayor of Puerto. Plata. The service was held in the Cathedral of San Philipi under the permission of the Bishop.

    These are not the poor, the neglected, or the abandoned whom I minister to every day. These are the elite. By forming alliances and providing services to this population it empowers ministry to the poor.  Both populations must be served to create comprehensive programs to alliviate poverty, remediate human rights abuses, and follow the command of Christ to open the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf, and proclaim the day of liberty.

    Some of the most effective ways to assist the poor must be done with the help of these people. I feel blessed by God to have had the experience and education to be able to speak and pray with these people in their languages. Having served for many years in the Middle East has enabled me to come to this island and serve in ways far beyond my dreams and imagination. For this I am grateful.

    9:11 PMMay. 10, 2009

    A Teaching Moment

    Volunteer Service in the DR


    Many of these children come from a distant Middle Eastern heritage. Father Dale teaches them a history lesson about how many of their families came to the Dominican Republic as refugees from the Middle East fleeing persecution.

    1:42 PMApr. 15, 2009

    Easter Hope

    Volunteer Service in the DR


    Easter Baptisms are a joyous time. It is a time not only to celebrate the resurrection of Christ but the resurrection of Hope in our own lives. Baptisms represent this new life we sense at such times. Easter Sunday we did five baptisms. The baptismal certificate is essential for many of the poor to gain access to schools, hospitals, and basic rights in a society that requires official identity cards. Those who are poor cannot afford an idenity and thus are invisible to society and suffer a life without hope. So a baptism is real hope.

    Several of the families baptised this week come from an interesting part of Dominican culture. Several of the children have ancestors who came from Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey in the 1920s and 30s at the invitation of Trujillo the dictator. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire people fled to Latin America and the Caribbean. One child has the name Omar Saliba (Cruz). This is a MIddle Eastern name and hints at the important heritage this child carries with him.

    1:34 PMApr. 15, 2009

    Model for Missions

    Volunteer Service in the DR.


    Philip Wickeri is a professor at San Francisco Theological Seminary in Marin County, California. Today I got a letter from Nanjing, China, where he is teaching Chinese seminary students about liturgy. He took the time to respond to a question I had about using early Chirsitan missions in China as a model for Christians in third world missions today. I am always looking for ways to improve and create programic structures to share the love of God in the Dominican Republic. His letter prompted me to read a lecture he did at a retreat center a few years ago. I was stunned by his use of a military document to get insight into new ways to structure mission in foreign environments.


    Let me call your attention to just one new document which describes the nature of this using the language of national security. How many of you are familiar with �The National Defense Strategy of the United States of America� (March 2005)? This is an updating of the September 2002 strategy paper, and although it is cast in the same tone, there are significant new elements. The most important of these is the new policy of �the forward defense of freedom,� an activist approach that is designed to create security conditions favorable to the United States, not through the control of territory, but through a �networking of connections� making use of advanced communications strategies. Main operating bases (MOBs) will be supplemented by forward operating bases (FOBs) and a diverse array of co-operative security locations (CSLs). This will require the development of �international partnerships� that serve US interests. Such partnerships will be those directly instituted by the government, but also partnerships by other US interests. In the �National Defense Strategy,� international judicial and regulatory processes are rejected alongside terrorism (in the same paragraph) as the �strategy of the weak�. The Muslim world is specifically mentioned as a target for �counter ideological support� against terrorism. The key concepts used throughout the document are: flexibility, capacity building, comprehensive realignment, networking, building bases of support at home, and developing new partnerships.

    This last line is a perfect model in which Dominican outreach has been developing. I will have more to say about this later. It is a five point plan for the future.

    10:28 AMApr. 2, 2009

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