John Kozyn


John Kozyn was born in the Netherlands, emigrated to Windsor, Canada as a child and his family later emigrated to the United States where he received a B.A. (University of Michigan) and an M.A. (University of Notre Dame) with studies focusing largely on the relationship between religion and politics.

John was first introduced to Haiti and the Haitian people's struggle for democracy in 1990 when he became the Associate Director of the Washington Office on Haiti (WOH) following a request from his pastor at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church, who was also Chairman of WOH's Board of Directors.  The WOH was a “voice for the voiceless” in advocating for the politically marginalized and disenfranchised sectors in Haiti, linked as it was to the Spiritan religious communities in both Haiti and the United States. It was the Spiritan priests:  Fr. Jim Healy in Arlington and  Fr. Antoine Adrien in Haiti, who together launched the WOH in 1981 (originally as the “Haitian Refugee Project”).

John first visited the country in October of that year in preparation for WOH's participation as election monitors in the upcoming elections and met with an array of political analysts in order to gain greater appreciation of the political climate as the country prepared for its first free and fair electoral contest on December 16th, 1990.  The WOH fielded an international delegation of some 20 distinguished individuals including labor leaders, religious, artists, educators, as well as many other citizens involved in grassroots activities in Haiti at the parish level (largely through the Haiti Parish Twinning Program).

After the electoral victory of Father Aristide, and following the subsequent coup d'état against President Aristide in 1991, John was asked by WOH's former Executive Director, Fritz Longchamp (then Haiti's Ambassador to the United Nations) to assist Aristide's Foreign Minister, Jean-Robert Sabalat, who joined the consitutional government-in-exile in Washington, DC. in early 1992.

The post of Foreign Minister was subsequently occupied by Mme Claudette Werleigh when the constitutional government was finally returned to power in 1994. John stayed on in country to assist Mme Werleigh with the preparations for hosting the OAS General Assembly, in June 1995.

Following that renowned success, John rejoined the Haitian Embassy in Washington to launch the first, official, governmental website of the Republic, which soon became an important medium not only for publicizing governmental affairs, but more importantly, to raise the profile of the Republic of Haiti across the world.

Around the same time and wearing a somewhat different hat, John also furthered the participation of his own parish in Arlington, Virginia – Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church -  in twinning with St Joseph's Parish in Médor – an impoverished community of over 20,000 in the Caco mountains, high above the Artibonite valley.  This isolated parish requested a twinning relationship under the auspices of the Haiti Parish Twinning Program and OLQP was the only parish willing to respond to their call.  John led the first of several delegations for parish-to-parish encounters beginning in 1997 and almost 20 years later the roots of  this “pawòs jimèl” have sunk deep indeed!

While John ceased working for the Haitian government in 2004 to devote himself to pursuits in the private sector, he still maintains a lively interest in Haiti, the country he fell in love with decades ago.  Remaining open to every opportunity to revisit, he was selected by CANADEM – Canada's agency for democratic development – to be an international observer for the elections in 2006, and again in 2011.