It is difficult to walk into a Dominican public or private school without seeing Juan Pablo Duarte’s* portrait prominently displayed. Many schools begin their day with a morning ceremony where students lead in raising the flag, singing the national anthem and praying for the day of classes. I have witnessed school directors take the opportunity to give their children context, saying things like, “This year is the Bicentennial of Juan Pablo Duarte, what does this mean for us and how we should live?” Students generally understand that Duarte is to be a model of bravery, compassion and love of country. After all, every morning they sing a song directed to the flag: “as long as there exists a school to sing of your greatness, you will wave with the soul of Duarte, you will live on with the soul of God”.
On the way to work, I often pass a billboard that says “if you can’t stand injustice, then you’re just like Duarte”. I’ve also seen signs that say “if you’re proud to be Dominican, then take care of the environment! Don’t throw your trash on the ground.” In the Dominican Republic, no less than in any other country, patriotism can be used as a way to form responsible citizens, foster solidarity, create a strong sense of belonging and responsibility to one another. That’s a beautiful thing. We, as Christians, have another citizenship to consider, one rooted in the bind we have as brothers and sisters in Christ awaiting a new home. How can this understanding of citizenship be used to form our youth into compassionate and successful adults? I see it every day as my citizenship as a Christian binds me to school directors and teachers with whom I share a vision of changed lives and communities; but we want to hear from you!
*Juan Pablo Duarte. Born 1813 in Santo Domingo and known as Father of Dominican Independence, Duarte led a movement to overthrow Haitian control in the DR.