Haitian Americans and others gathered at a church in Elmont on Saturday afternoon to pray for peace and unity in Haiti, which is in turmoil in the wake of the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse on Wednesday.
Watching prayer at Bethany’s French Baptist Church, which was in a mixture of English, Creole and French, came as the Caribbean nation with more than 10 million people found it in uncertainty and division. Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph and Ariel Henry – who had chosen Moïse to replace Joseph the day before his assassination but had not yet taken office – both declared prime ministers.
On Friday, Haitian senators elected Joseph Lambert, the remaining president of the Senate after most of the senator’s term expired, as interim president, to recognize Henry as prime minister.
“We are asking leaders to come together and reach a consensus …,” said Nassau County Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Lawrence), the son of Haitian immigrants and who helped organize the vigil, was attended by about 30 people. “This is a terrible time for the history of the country. We must make a public demand for peace. This is acceptable. Our youth look at this and say, ‘Whoa, is this democracy?’ This is not a democracy. “
The pastor of the church, Rev. Edy Bichotte, said prayer was desperately needed to help unite Haiti.
“In this time of turmoil, turmoil and crime, we need this kind of spirit, the power that can lead us, the spiritual power that can lead us to the word of God,” he said.
Haiti-born Marie Carmel Houanche in Freeport said members of different factions in Haiti need to come together at a roundtable to reach a consensus on a way forward.
“We need to come together as a people because now the people are fighting for power, who is the current president, who is the prime minister,” he said. “So much is happening that the whole nation is confused.”
Marthe Desdunes, president of the Haitian-American family in Long Island, said the assassination and struggle for leadership in the country that followed is “devastating to watch because it is the people who are suffering.”
He declared Haiti, which declared its independence from France in 1804, the first free republic ruled by blacks, “so it is very difficult to see Haiti still struggling to continue.”
Prior to Moise’s assassination, Haitians did not agree if he was the legitimate president, some said his term had expired and his supporters said he was not. Desdunes said whatever people thought of Moïse, they had to agree that the way his presidency ended was a tragedy for the country.
“The biggest problem was, one, someone died,” he said. “Besides someone being murdered, he was murdered at home, and the way he was killed was so brutal. There must be a sense of transition. It’s okay if you don’t like people in power, but there’s a transition where it’s not a murder that eventually happens. ”