Back in January Pat Robertson captured the world’s attention yet again by announcing to the world that the Haitian earthquake was the consequence of a voodoo pact with the Devil. While the blogosphere howled, it looks as if ordinary Haitians have been taking notice.
According to news agencies, a group of Haitians that gathered together today in the Cité Soleil slum of Port-au Prince to conduct a voodoo ceremony in honor of the January 12 quake victims were attacked by born-again Christians, who pelted them with rocks and shouted insults at them. The fundamentalists urinated on voodoo symbols, shattered altars, and ransacked consecrated offerings of rum and food.
Voodoo or vodou is a syncretic religion combining traditional West African practices with extinct native Caribbean beliefs and Roman Catholicism. Vodou is an intensely sensual and spiritual religion based on a supreme being, Bondye (from the French "bon dieu" or good god) and a vast pantheon of lesser gods and spirits with whom vodou priests can come into direct contact. While it appears alien and downright threatening to American Protestant sensibilities, its adherents feel that it is closely attuned to the stark realities of Haitian life.
This attack appears to form part of a growing trend of religious intolerance in this nominally Catholic but predominantly voodoo society. According to AP reporter Paisley Dodds, “Baptists, Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientologists, Mormons and other missionaries have flocked to Haiti in droves since the earthquake to feed the homeless, treat the injured and jockey for souls. Some Voodoo practitioners have said they’ve converted to Christianity for fear they will lose out on aid or a belief that the earthquake was a warning from God.” In the words of one American missionary: “We would give food to the needy in the short term but if they refused to give up Voodoo, I’m not sure we would continue to support them in the long term because we wouldn’t want to perpetuate that practice. We equate it with witchcraft, which is contrary to the Gospel.”
A vodou altar
(Source: Horniman Museum)
In other news, a new report by the Inter-American Development Bank assesses the damage incurred by Haiti from the earthquake at approximately $14 billion, making it the most destructive natural disaster in recent history. The magnitude 7 quake killed at least 200,000 and perhaps as many as 300,000 persons and has left over a million homeless. But as costs mount, new aid donations, both public and private, have receded to a trickle as new questions arise about the distribution of the aid already provided and the direction of long-term reconstruction plans. Global interest in the Haitian drama is in freefall, as the airwaves and bandwidths were first captured by the sordid orphan scandal, then by Tiger Woods, the Vancouver Olympics, and finally the generic scandal du jour.
In the meantime, Haitian fundamentalists, flush with American church money, have decided that their personal salvation lies in declaring open season on voodoo practitioners. So if you’re wondering how Haiti ever got into the state it is in today, and why it may never get beyond it, the answer is right here.
Wash, rinse, repeat.