Slaves in Paradise
A Priest Stands Up for Exploited Sugarcane Workers
By: Jesus Garcia
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.