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Religion revives in Haiti

world Updated: Jan 19, 2010 01:10 IST

Deeply religious Haitians see the hand of God in the destruction of Biblical proportions visited on their benighted country. The quake, religious leaders said on Sunday, is evidence that He wants change.

Exactly what change He wants depends on the faith: Some Christians say it’s a sign that Haitians must deepen their faith, while some Voodoo followers see God’s judgment on corruption among the country’s mostly light-skinned elite.

And then there’s American evangelist Pat Robertson, who said on Wednesday that Haiti had been cursed by a pact he said its slave founders made with the devil two centuries ago to overthrow their French rulers and become the world’s first black republic. The White House called his remarks “stupid.”

As desperate believers gathered to pray on Sunday across the shattered capital, the Rev. Eric Toussaint told a congregation gathered outside the ruined cathedral that the earthquake “is a sign from God, saying that we must recognize his power.” Haitians, he said, “need to reinvent themselves, to find a new path to God.”

Some followers of Voodoo, practised alongside Roman Catholicism by the vast majority of Haitians, said the devastation of key symbols of power was punishment for corrupt leaders who have allowed the mostly light-skinned elite to enrich themselves while the black majority suffers.

“If all of a sudden, in 15 seconds, 20 seconds, all the physical representations of corruption are destroyed, it gives you pause for thought,” said Richard Morse, a renowned Haitian-American musician whose mother was a singer and revered Voodoo priestess. “The Justice Ministry: down. The National Palace: down. The UN headquarters: down.”

Unharmed by the quake was the famed bronze statue, “Le Maron Inconnu” — “the Unknown Escaped Slave” — noted Morse, who owns the Oloffson Hotel featured in Graham Greene’s novel The Comedians.

The destruction of every major Catholic church in the capital, including the 81-year-old cathedral, also was a sign, he said: “When there is all this corruption going on, whose role is it in society to speak out? Isn’t the Church supposed to say something?”