Full disclosure: I practice an African Diasporic religion, and after the Haitian earthquake, along with a donation to the Red Cross, I gave a small sum to help the voudou community. In other words, I have a religious opinion; and like Brit Hume, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, the right to express it in the media.
Tuesday, Evangelicals violently disrupted a traditional religious ceremony in the Cite Soleil slum, located just outside the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. According to AFP:
Police said a pastor urged followers to attack the ceremony, resulting in a crowd of people throwing rocks at the voodoo followers.
Throwing rocks? WTF?! Is this anyway for Christians to act? Are they all so sinless?
Today the Washington Post reported that a two-year study by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs shows
American foreign policy is handicapped by a narrow, ill-informed and “uncompromising Western secularism” that feeds religious extremism, threatens traditional cultures and fails to encourage religious groups that promote peace and human rights.
While our foreign policy at a governmental level may be “handicapped” by secularism, the private sector is screwing up by pushing their religious agendas, retarding efforts to actually do a greater good.
In the wake of January 12 earthquake, hundreds of religious groups headed to Haiti bringing food, water and aid, some including solar powered Protestant bibles and their own religious tracts in their care packages. Some called themselves “Volunteer Ministers” and interfered with medical personnel in attempts to recruit. It’s a huge dog pile as minsters of God ply Haitians with various versions of salvation.
Religious tensions have increased and accelerated. Dr. Christos Kioni, the Florida-based vodou expert profiled in Christine Wicker’s Not In Kansas Anymore wrote us:
The violence fundamentalists have engaged in upon the practitioners of Vodou in Haiti is fueled by a sectarian demon. It is the same spirit that spurs Muslim radicals to engage in terrorist activities in the Name of Allah, it is the same spirit that fanned the flames of the Inquisition and Crusades. Christians have long ago abandoned their faith in the authentic teachings of Christ that God is Love. They have also forgotten that Christ said to his disciples “Other sheep I have that are not of this fold.” These radical evangelicals show no religious tolerance nor the Fruit of the Spirit by their rhetoric and actions. Such acts of violence reveal just how far Christianity has backslidden.
Earlier this month, as reported in the New York Daily News Max Beauvoir, vodou’s supreme leader
believes Christians in Haiti are taking food and supplies, and not allowing them to reach needy people outside Port-au-Prince.
“They take everything they get to their own people,” he said, “and that’s a shame.”
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs recommended:
Empowering government departments and agencies to engage local and regional religious communities where they are central players in the promotion of human rights and peace, as well as the delivery of health care and other forms of assistance.
Local and regional should mean traditional and indigenous, not just the missionary groups and those they convert.
Catholicism and vodou are the Haiti’s traditional religions. Vodou, more commonly spelled as voudou or voodoo, is a syncretic faith combining various West African religions carried by slaves with the colonizing French’s Catholicism and aspects of the Northern European folk faiths. A voudou ceremony held by escaped slave and hougan (voudou priest) Dutty Boukman was the catalyst for Haiti’s 1791 slave rebellion that led to the island’s freedom.
Pat Robertson–who later backpedaled after a public outcry–had harsh words about Haiti’s history and blamed the country’s troubles on their faith:
They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon the third, or whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, we will serve you if you will get us free from the French. True story. And so, the devil said, okay it’s a deal.
That sort of intolerant thinking is what leads to actions like Tuesday’s stoning in Jesus’ name. AFP reported:
Rosemond Aristide, police inspector in Cite Soleil, said he has since spoken with the pastor, who agreed to allow voodoo ceremonies to take place there. However, Aristide could not explain why no arrests were made nor provide further details.
Beauvoir claimed hundreds of Protestant Evangelicals along with other people they hired attacked the ceremony, causing a number of injuries.
KWTX reports that the attackers were Haitian Christians.
Praying and singing, the group was trying to conjure spirits to guide lost souls when a crowd of evangelicals started shouting. Some threw rocks while others urinated on Voodoo symbols.When police left, the crowd destroyed the altars and Voodoo offerings of food and rum.
Christians supposedly follow the Prince of Peace; unfortunately, their hostile behavior could lead to some repercussions. Max Beauvoir told AFP:
It will be war — open war. It’s unfortunate that at this moment where everybody’s suffering that they have to go into war. But if that is what they need, I think that is what they’ll get.
Dr. Kioni added in email:
I agree with my friend and colleague, The Supreme Servitor of Vodou, Ati Max Beauvoir, that this attack by the evangelicals is a declaration of war. These Bible Thumpers have no idea how powerful Vodou is nor how lethal it can be.
We are mobilizing our forces to meet this demonic spirit head on; bullets nor pious, hypocritical prayers have no power where Vodou is concerned. Vodou will be recognized and accepted as a valid and legitimate system of spirituality just as the Wiccan and Pagans have been accepted. Freedom of Religion is a right and no man nor religious organization has a corner on God nor salvation. There is only ONE God and His Universal Name is Yawe.
The Chicago Council’s Richard Cizik (from the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, who ought to be taking those rock tossers to task!) said:
Some parts of the world — the Middle East, China, Russia and India, for example — are particularly sensitive to the U.S. government’s emphasis on religious freedom and see it as a form of imperialism.
It’s also a form of imperialism to proselytize and try to convert people during a disaster when they are at their most vulnerable. Note that the pastor who incited the stoning “agreed to allow” traditional religious ceremonies on native soil. WTF? Talk about imperialism.
I deplore the actions of those Evangelicals in Cite Soliel–all thinking and all loving people do–and pray that the Haitian people will not return ignorance and violence with more violence.
As an American, I ask my fellow Americans, whatever faith they may be, to act with grace and dignity, respecting the religious traditions of those to whom they bring aid.
Oh ministers and pastors and your flocks, do unto others as you would have them do unto you–and really, in a disaster aid situation, would you want someone trying convert you to say Islam or some arm of Christianity that doesn’t jive with yours? May peace prevail in Haiti.