Haiti bids "A Dieu" to Father Jeri and promises
"The Struggle continues"
June 19, 2009
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Haiti bids "A Dieu" to Father Jeri and promises "The Struggle continues"

by Randall White

Haiti Action.net - Port au Prince, Haiti — Yesterday, several thousand of Lavalas supporters, friends, family and parishioners of Reverend Father Gerard Jean-Juste from all over Haiti, Miami and Brooklyn converged on the Cathédrale de Port-au-Prince to thank their God for the life and ministry of the Liberation Theology priest of the St. Claire parish in Ti Plas Kazo neighborhood near Port au Prince. Pè Jery (Father Jeri) as he was known by many was laid to rest after an eventful four hour trip to the southwest church in Cavaillon and another half hour trip on the countryside roads to to gravesite.

[Many of the names of the family members in attendance are listed at the end of this article]

The funeral was complete with every aspect of Haitian life; the vicissitudes of life, politics, provocation, love and tragedy that the island nation embraces and endures every day.

The Cathédrale de Port-au-Prince was chosen as it happens to be the largest church building which could contain the most mourners, not because it was necessarily a favorite of the priest who saw his ministry as being to the poor and oppressed least-served outside of the Catholic hierarchy which Father Jean-Juste was frequently at odds with. Many family members and friends gathered early in the back of the church to view the body and wait for the service to begin.

Soon, the procession of the clergy proceeding the flag draped casket announced to the noisy crowd that the service had begun, if they thought that the gathered mourners would become orderly and observe traditional church decorum nothing could be further from what commenced to be more of a "manifestation" than an important dignitary's funeral.

Most in the crowd felt cheated by the Government, UN, the Church and international community, who they believed to be complicit in the untimely death of Father Jean-Juste. "Juan Gabriel Valdez (former head of the UN mission in Haiti under the coup government) should be charged with the murder of Père Jean-Juste!" The usual list of suspects — in the recent oppression of the People of Haiti — Gerard La Tortue, Mario Andresol, the sweatshop owners and the tight-fisted Haitian elite became targets of the nonstop and spirited protest inside and all around the Cathedral.

Monseigneur Miot, the Episcopal President of the Cathedral, presided over the oftentimes raucous funeral. Even though Msgr. Miot was thought by many to be responsible for the beating and arrest of Fr. Jean-Juste at Jacques Roche's funeral in 2005, the Monseigneur always denied his involvement, claimed to be a friend of Jean-Juste and insisted that he be given the best funeral possible at the "Mother" Church of all Haitian parishes.

Monseigneur Andre took over, forged ahead, delivered a long and impassioned eulogy, commemorating the life and ministry of Father Jean-Juste "as a champion of human rights, a fighter for the Haitian poor, striving always for the immigration and refugee rights of all Haitians, especially for those living in Miami.

"Père Jean-Juste was a fighter for justice and an example of Christ working amongst us, an example to all Church leaders.

"Père Jean-Juste never stopped fighting for the return of President Aristide who he believed could bring lasting peace to Haiti. He looked at his struggle for the true liberation of the People of Haiti to be a calling from God.

"Père Jean-Juste has a good heart for the children — feeding thousands at St. Claire every day. He had such a human heart that — even while he was a prisoner himself — he fed many of the other prisoners," providing for them what he couldn't do for himself.

"Père Jean-Juste cares about the education of the Haitian people from the ground to the university…"

One wouldn't know from the stories that emerged overnight that most of the international press was at the entire funeral, but they occupied the most strategic positions, blocking the best view of the proceedings from most of those in attendance. For the most part their "coverage" didn't justify their intrusion.

Also disrupting the service near the end was what was thought to be a bevy of agents provocateur that forced their way past security and tried to incite confrontation as they crowded the mourners near the casket. Several reported missing items, passports, phones and cameras. "President Preval sent these pickpockets to disrupt and start fights," claimed several at the funeral.

Tragically, after the cortège began leaving for a long trip to Cavaillon, UN troops arrested one of the mourners wearing a commemorative t-shirt as he was leaving on his motorcyle, dragging him of of the seat by his hair. "It was clearly a provocation by the UN to disrupt the funeral," claimed an employee of the Cathedral who saw the entire incident.

Shortly, the Brazilian soldiers leveled their weapons at the parishioners and assassinated one of the mourners who was not part of the fracas as he left the side door of the church as he was getting ready to board one of the empty busses waiting to take the mourners to Cavaillon. This entire incident will be covered in depth in another HaitiAction.net article.

Rene Civil, Lavarice Gaudin and Lucie Tondreau were all near the line of fire and separated from the rest of the cortège to the front of the Cathedral and formed a small caravan that quicly left the area guided by Haitian police to meet up with the rest of the shaken mourners, the busses and hearse at Marianni/Carrefour on Route Raille to the South of Port au Prince. The police led the procession all the way to the Cavaillon countryside.

All along the four our trip signs and banners greeted the procession. The large banner was seen in many places strung across the highway. With photos of Father Jeri in prison and President Jean Bertrand Aristide were displayed with the words, "Jery ou ale, Batay la ap kontiye." (Jery, even though you leave us, the struggle will continue.)

Halfway through the four hour trip the cortège stopped in Miragoane for a short service and was a charged rally where the former Mayor Serge D. Gaspard — under the Aristide government — led the rally where Lavarice Gaudin and Rene Civil also spoke. Lavarice, the leader of an organization that Father Jean-Juste founded in Miami — Veye Yo — was also a close assistant to Father Jean Juste for many years and spent many hours with him every day through his prolonged illness.

Soon after leaving the arduous and demanding roads of Haiti took a further toll on the procession. An unpaved steep climb proved to be too much for the aging hearse and passengers of a more appropriate vehicle were evicted to other willing vehicles to make room for the casket.

Surprisingly the trip, and the other events of the day, seemed to invigorate the typical resiliency and resolve that the People of Haiti are famous for and the funeral took on a new resolve as the cortège crowded into the Church of Cavaillon for a more spirit-filled service.

In Father Jeri's home town, the priest was surprisingly familiar with Father Jean-Juste's activism in Miami. "He laid down in front of the busses that were returning liberation activists to the US-supported and brutal Duvalier Haiti where they would certainly be tortured, imprisoned and killed by the Ton-Ton Macoute."

The lively service — presided by Père Rene and Père Donai — had a typically "Father Jeri moment" when the priest couldn't carry the right tune for an old song — O Lespri sen Desann Sou Nou — and the congregation urged him to let one of the older sisters lead the congregation with the correct tune. The good-humored priest relented to break in "tradition."

After the service, the larger cortège — which picked up mourners all along the route — left for a bumpy crawl over a country road to Father Jean Juste's final resting place buried next to his mother. Of course this meant another hour's worth of graveside service where the grave has a newly constructed covering.

The day was only two-thirds over but there would be no more services or rallies. The high-speed procession returned to Port au Prince, stopping momentarily in Miragoane, once again, for BBQ chicken, rice and sugary drinks to energize the last leg into the Haitian night.

Members of Father Gerard Jean Juste's family in attendance:

Fayola Jean Juste
Franciane J.J. delica
Suzanne Delica
Jinette Delica
Calixte Joslyn
Nadia Jean Juste
Gina Jean Juste
Geurdine Jean Juste
Guy Jean Juste
Edzer Jean Juste
Adonai Jean Juste
Magalie Jean Juste
Sonel Jean Juste
Mme Edouard Jean juste
Yves Berdrand
Anel Jean Juste
Micheline Jean Juste
Morel Jean Juste
Gilbert Jean Juste
Sonese Jean Juste

©2009 HaitiAction.net


see also

Haiti and Miami activists meet to plan for Fr. Jean Juste funeral Jun 17

Mon Père, Remembrances of Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste May 29

HaitiAction.net UPDATE
Reverend Father Gerard Jean-Juste

many past articles, photos and links of our beloved Pér Jean-Juste compiled on one page

Pè Jean Juste: personal remembrances - Respè

Lavalas flexes its muscles in Haiti Apr 20

Poll projects low voter turnout in Haiti:
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Thousands march in Haiti demanding return of Aristide Feb 29

Propagandhi: progressive thrash, Haiti and activism on tour
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Haiti bill calling for investigation of U.S. role in 2004 Coup d'État Feb 5

The rebirth of Konbit in Haiti
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