Restavek Freedom

They sang songs about change.
They sang songs about a new vision for Haiti.
They sang songs about compassion and freedom and liberty.
They sang songs about children who live like a child never should have to live.

They sang songs to raise awareness, to bring a voice to those without a voice and to bring change.

They came from each of the departments (provinces) of Haiti but they had one message; the age-old child slavery system in Haiti called Restavek has to stop.

One of the 11 contestants

One of the 11 contestants

Last Saturday Samuel and I along with our colleagues the Vanderstoeps and a stadium full of hundreds of others had the opportunity to be part of the event Chante pou Libète – Songs for Freedom. Sponsored by an organization called Restavek Freedom this event was the culmination of months of regional contests where singers presented original works on the theme of Restavek. This event was the grand finale and the artists did not disappoint. The eleven songs we heard covered the musical genres of gospel, reggie, kompa and a few others. Some songs were rousing with an up-tempo beat and others more quiet but each held firm to the theme, denouncing Restavek as a social ill in Haiti and calling for change.

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The event was held at the Stade Sylvio Cator National Stadium

Taken from Restavek Freedom’s website here is an explanation of what Restavek is:

Restavek is a form of modern-day slavery that persists in Haiti, affecting one in every 15 children. Typically born into poor rural families, restavek children are often given to relatives or strangers. In their new homes, they become domestic slaves, performing menial tasks for no pay. In the Creole language, “restavek” means “to stay with.” Yet for the children who are called restavek, that definition is incomplete. For them, it means:
To stay with
… humiliation and abuse.
To stay with
… alone, in a family that offers no love.
To stay with
… an incessant and gnawing hunger.
To stay with
… the feeling that no matter what, their voices, their lives, will never count.

The reasons that the restavek practice persists in Haiti are complex  – ranging from harsh economic conditions to the cultural attitudes toward children. But every morning another child wakes up to begin his or her life of hardship, it becomes all the more urgent that this practice be stopped.

The events held across the country and this finale were all designed to bring the conversation about restavek into the public and encourage pastors and community leaders to talk about this issue and help bring change within their churches and communities.

As the judge’s results were being tabulated, Chris Tomlin took the stage to led us with some great worship in song.

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Towards the end of the evening we sneaked down onto the field

He sang a number of songs including I Will Follow“, “Whom Shall I Fear, Ten Thousand Reasons and then finished the evening with God of This City.

Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this city….
……..You’re the light in this darkness
You’re the hope to the hopeless
You’re the peace to the restless
You are

These are poignant words for Haiti and Haitian restaveks but also a prayer for so many people in hurting hard places in this broken world.

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Chris Tomlin and his band led us in worship in song to finish the event

This weekend many people in Canada and the United States will celebrate Labour Day. This is a day that is dedicated to celebrate the great strides that have taken place in the rights and the social and economic achievements of workers. Let us hope and pray that soon, by God’s grace, many former Haitian Restaveks will be able to celebrate their freedom from slavery, their social advancement and hope in their future.

I challenge you to go to the website for Restavek Freedom at http://www.restavekfreedom.org/ and read more about Restavek and what Restavek Freedom is doing to speak for the voiceless.

Happy Labour (or Labor) Day

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