Slaves in Paradise: A Priest Stands Up for Exploited Sugarcane Workers
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With its beautiful beaches and golf courses, the island of the Dominican Republic is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean. Yet when missionary priest Fr. Christopher Hartley arrived in the country in 1997, he discovered another side to this paradise: the deplorable living and working conditions of the people who harvest the country's sugarcane, and the illegal human trafficking that brings them to the plantations as slaves.
Inspired by the Gospels and Mother Teresa, Fr. Hartley carried out intense evangelization efforts in his large parish, which included several cane cutter camps. He brought the Good News of salvation in Christ and the sacraments of the Church to many workers and their families whose unjust treatment was being ignored at every level of society. Drawing from the social teachings of the Church, he denounced the exploitation, including in a speech before the president of the Dominican Republic and in meetings with the owners of the plantations. Because of his strong criticism, he endured harsh treatment, was threatened with death, and eventually had to leave the country.
This book chronicles Fr. Hartley's missionary work in the Dominican Republic. It includes detailed letters he wrote to his friends and benefactors about the needs of his people and the injustices they endured. Filled with rich spiritual reflections and apostolic passion, his letters tell heart-wrenching stories of human misery while revealing the deep and abiding faith he found among the poor.
"Fr. Hartley's mission of love is fueled by his strong prayer life and his intimacy with God. You will discover a man who always makes time for prayer, often spending hours before the Lord. I pray that this book will inspire us all to a deeper faith in God and love for the poor."
—Cardinal Seán O'Malley, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Boston, from the Foreword
"A favorite son of Mother Teresa, Fr. Hartley shows us the face of Jesus in the people he served. This book, quite simply, should be read by everyone! Read it and allow Christ to open your eyes to see him in all people, especially the poorest of the poor."
—Fr. Larry Richards, Author, Be a Man!
"Evangelization is not just about believing in Jesus, but about touching his wounds in our wounded brothers and sisters. That changes the wounded and it changes us. Fr. Hartley's life was changed and ministry was born when he saw the suffering poor. This is not just his call, it's ours too, for the poor, the unborn, and all in need."
—Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director, Priests for Life
"This is a book that exudes hope, which generates the happiness and joy of living, and sparks a lively desire to do the same: to evangelize. The testimony of this beloved missionary priest transmits joy and light, as he transmitted that same joy and hope to those long-suffering brothers and sisters in the Dominican Republic."
—Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, from the Foreword to the Spanish Edition
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jesús García, a journalist for many years with the newspaper El Mundo, now works in the Department of Communication of Aid to the Church in Need. As a reporter of religious news and events, he has written numerous stories on the work of the Church in different countries of the world, and is the author of three other books.