.- Bishop Francisco Ozoria Acosta of San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, issued a statement this week expressing the support of all of the diocesan clergy for the work carried out by Father Christopher Hartley among the Haitian immigrants, who are brought into the country illegally in order to work on sugarcane plantations. In recent days, several newspapers in the country have criticized the pastoral work of Father Hartley with sugarcane workers and their families.
In his statement, the bishop noted that thanks to the work of Father Hartely, many immigrants “have realized they have dignity and rights” and they have lost their fear of denouncing the injustices they are suffering and of “demanding and defending their human and worker’s rights.”
Father Hartley’s work in the formation and education of both Dominicans and Haitians “has made it difficult to maintain the abusive work regimen they have been subjected to,” reads the statement. “This has affected the profits of some companies located in his area and that have benefited from the flagrant injustices.”
Bishop Ozoria noted that those who oppose Father Hartley’s work are fostering a “false kind of patriotism” and “serious xenophobic and racists attitudes.”
“The Church cannot remain indifferent to social changes” because she is the “servant of salvation not in an abstract or merely spiritual sense.” Moreover, he explained that “while poverty wounds and disfigures the human being, in a certain sense all of society is left wounded.”
The bishop also pointed out that while “the State has the right and obligation to defend national sovereignty,” it is not right “to take advantage of a cheap Haitian workforce.”
Therefore he called on the faithful to be informed about the situation, to not fall into racism, to promote the social teachings of the Church, and to pray.