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Tutu appeals to Haitian protestors to stay calm following election

By Matthew Davies
2/14/2006
[Episcopal News Service]  As thousands of protestors took to the streets of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, in response to the country's February 7 presidential election, a crowd of 7,000 stormed the city's Hotel Montana February 13 where former Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu, and Executive Council member Louie Crew were guests. Both are safe and have now been transported from the hotel to Haiti's airport.

Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, appealed to the crowd to remain calm and said that he was very proud of the way that they had responded peacefully to the election.

Speaking by telephone from Port-au-Prince February 14, Crew described the last two days as very dramatic.

"The 7,000 people broke the gate down after an hour and stormed into the front of the hotel," said Crew, a member of the Diocese of Newark. "Archbishop Tutu spoke to some of them and pleaded for calm."

Crew explained that, although the experience was harrowing, everyone remained relatively calm "because we didn't sense that these people were trying to be destructive. They were just celebrating what they think is their victory."

One of the reasons the protestors targeted the hotel, officials explained, was that members of the electoral council, which does not support leading presidential candidate Rene Preval, had contracted a conference room there.

Preval said February 14 that "gross errors and probably gigantic fraud" marred last week's elections, but he urged supporters to protest peacefully, the Associated Press reported.

Tutu preached about peace and reconciliation at an ecumenical service at Sainte Trinite Episcopal Cathedral in Port-au-Prince, on Sunday, February 12, where worshippers included government officials, foreign diplomats and international electoral observers. The service marked the inauguration of Haiti's "National Day of Peace and Tolerance."

Under the leadership of Bishop Jean Zache Duracin, Eglise Episcopale D'Haiti is one of the Episcopal Church's 12 overseas dioceses.