Sat | Mar 25, 2023

Caribbean churches must advocate with one voice for Haiti

Published:Sunday | September 4, 2022 | 12:05 AMFr Sean Major-Campbell -
Father Sean Major-Campbell
Father Sean Major-Campbell

Haiti, Jamaica’s next-door neighbour, continues to suffer from the plight of an internationally orchestrated demise brought on a people who were also victims of slavery, colonial rule, and capitalist exploitation. This country, which saw itself becoming the first black independent nation in the Western world, has been a study in systemic poverty and international neglect!

Over the years, various religious groups and individuals have had the benefit of serving various messiah complexes while doing their missions to Haiti. The feel-good appetite for having served the poor was often filled with annual reports and photos and testimonials showing how a particular group did mission to Haiti.

The approaches to Haiti, and the various fragmented interventions, with the best of intentions, have still not helped Haiti to even turn the corner of development. Different civil society groups have done their thing. The Haitian situation with the varied helpers from outside, has produced a study in confusion marked by the competing views of the different bodies seeking to find or produce the panacea for the crisis and anarchy that have befallen Haiti.

When one looks closely at the intervention of various church and para-church organisations, one sees some seemingly well-intentioned activities over the years. While many prayers and crusades and barrels of clothing and food items have flowed into the former French colony, today. it would appear that nothing has been done. The fragmented intervention model continues to prevail across the Caribbean. While it happens in government and private sector in varying degrees, I am particularly looking at what has obtained with church groups.

Each group does its thing based on how it interprets the problem on its own terms. Each one diagnoses “fixes” and moves on to save the next set of folks with problems. Since much of American Evangelicalism holds the view that Haiti’s problem is voodoo, then these groups are often focused on a fix that is done in the name of evangelism, albeit limited to what amounts to getting people “saved” without any regard for the history of corruption and wickedness that the political past has wrought into the present! The emphasis has been on getting the sinners right with God through conversion to another brand of religion.

Then another group, recognising that they have been victims of an unjust social order, seeks to emphasise the place of justice and social interventions while some from the evangelism group keep the people focused on praying without actually understanding that justice is good news anywhere people are disempowered, disenfranchised, and made weak from oppressive systems.

Perhaps the other group was sure that its view of the poor as needing education along with the fix regarding the building of schools, would indeed solve the problems big time; but alas, things continue to fall apart. One group comes in to save souls. Another group comes in with social interventions. Still another group flies in with social welfare, while another that has been planning a mission trip spends several days or even weeks teaching them how to be like the missionaries whose culture is ‘superior’ with its also superior religion.

Each group comes in with a fix. Each has good intentions. They, however, lack one thing. They must sell what they have and give to the poor. They must sell their assumed superiority and understand that until Haiti is released from its bondage and oppression to the Babylon system that has raped, plundered, and enslaved her capacity to overcome the debt millstone around the neck, we are all doomed to apocalyptic explosions.

In the Bible, there is an image for working together. It recognises that the body, though one, is made up of several parts, all of which must work together for the good of the one body. Just imagine if churches worked together for the common good! Just imagine!

Throughout the Caribbean, the Church has had a history of being agents of the political status quo. It has also been a vehicle for the imposed culture of the evil powers that possessed the people. Some church groups have even been used to destabilise countries. What is clear is that various political systems have been served by religious groups that were preoccupied with saving people from the devil without realising that the devil is the forces of Babylon that oppress the people of God.

It is only possession by evil powers and their value system why such things as skin bleaching, African hair discrimination, and self-hate are so prevalent. The transatlantic slave trade, the domination by white supremacy, and the genocide and holocaust of slavery have all done their centuries-old job of mental slavery and impoverishment.

The possession is so chronic that many do not even know why they are mentally shackled to the UK Privy Council as Jamaica’s final appellate jurisdiction. The possession is such that we still have many who wonder if we are ready for a republican form of governance. Even worse is how there are voices from the Churchthat have not made the leap from such oppressive forces to the liberating powers of the kingdom of God!

Haiti, like other victims of colonial oppression, needs reparatory justice now! To date, it is only the greedy capitalists who were enriched off the backs of the enslaved who continue to live in material prosperity though often impoverished in ethical and moral standards. In the Bible, the kingdom of God is always seen where people are freed from oppression, mental slavery, possession by evil forces, and enslavement to unjust systems.

Maybe our Caribbean community might consider speaking with a sustained voice of advocacy for Haiti and the call for reparatory justice!

Fr Sean Major-Campbell is an Anglican priest and advocate for human rights.