For four years I lived in a small town in Haiti and, although there is not proof that the creator of this image is Haitian, I see it through that lens.
The bright white of his robe reminds me of the dresses of the little girls of the village, washed in the muddy water of drainage ditches yet emerging spotless! Starched and pressed with irons filled with hot charcoal, made from trees stripped and burned in the decimated hills, yet still providing fuel for food and a bit of dignity.
His fingers, so long and delicate; the nails painted white. Embracing without embarrassment a female sensibility, like Haitian men sporting the brightly colored women’s shirts or hats they find in the second-hand clothing bins from the U.S.
His face shadowed with a faint trace of past illnesses: TB, Chikungunya, malaria, typhoid, cholera, hepatitis, AIDS. Each disease raising the ghostly image of a precious life crippled or ended too soon. Yet he (and they) endure.
The eyes. No joy there, but no judgement, either. I could never get anyone to smile when I took pictures to tell the story back home. Challenging me to look at their reality with equal realism. “Don’t say we are poor but happy. We are in great need. What are you going to do about it?”
His hand pointing to his heart. I remember Jean Eli, forcing us to place our hands over his wildly beating heart when we tried to tell him that the man who had been paying his school fees could no longer do so. Who was I to tell him he was being melodramatic? Me, with my Master’s degree and security for life.
The crown of thorns, by itself not enough to kill. But the spikes wound in so many different places that they crush the spirit. Economic collapse. Corruption. Environmental devastation. Hunger. Illiteracy. And the ironic cruelty. What is true is made to seem false. The slaves fought for their freedom only to end up the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
Those dreadlocks! This is an African King Jesus, redeeming an African people by reminding them of their proud heritage when, like the Israelites, they lived as free tribes. And his suffering, unwavering presence in their midst brings light to their minds and hearts for the long journey back to freedom.
Reflection by Diane Roche, RSCJ
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