Brethren Disaster Ministries has directed a grant of up to $8,000 from the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) supporting the work of Iglesia de los Hermanos (the Church of the Brethren in the Dominican Republic) to assist the naturalization of ethnic Haitians living in the DR. This grant is in addition to funding of $6,500 from the budget of Global Mission and Service, for a total of up to $14,500.
The Dominican Republic and Haiti share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, and many people of Haitian descent live across the border in the DR. However, in Sept. 2013, a high level court in the DR made a ruling that denies Dominican nationality to children of undocumented migrants who have been born or registered in the country after 1929, and who do not have at least one Dominican parent. The ruling was made under a 2010 constitutional clause declaring these people to be either in the country illegally or in transit.
As a result, tens of thousands of people born in the DR to undocumented Haitian parents are stateless, jobless, and in need of international assistance. The Church of the Brethren in the DR has responded with a project to assist church members of Haitian descent to register and become naturalized in the DR.
The Dominican Brethren work to register and naturalize Haitian members has been going on for some time, according to Global Mission executive Jay Wittmeyer, who reported that initially there was some caution about the DR government’s process.
“The Church of the Brethren in the DR has been actively registering names,” Wittmeyer said. Funding support is needed because of the expense of the substantial documentation that is required for an individual to go through the registration and naturalization process, he explained.
“The Dominican church, which is half Dominican and half Haitian, is committed to unity in Christ and is fully supportive of their Haitian Brethren in this time of crisis,” Wittmeyer said. “The church has always had shared leadership between the Dominican and Haitian communities.”
To date, the Church of the Brethren in the DR has registered nearly 300 members in what is called Phase 1 of the naturalization effort, according to the Brethren Disaster Ministries grant request. Phase 2 will cost about $80 per person, with a plan to have $40 provided by the individual and a matching grant of $40 from the Church of the Brethren in the United States. The Dominican Brethren have a goal of helping 250 people in Phase 2, at a cost of $10,000.
For more information about the Emergency Disaster Fund go to www.brethren.org/edf . For more information about the Church of the Brethren in the Dominican Republic go to www.brethren.org/partners/dr .