Darrow Miller and Friends

Voodoo: An African Perspective on Haiti’s Poverty

photo by Phil Thebault at freedigitalphotos.net

Africa and Haiti share much in common. In both places, many people live on less than a dollar a day. Both have had massive foreign assistance, yet both remain impoverished. Corruption, disease, and poverty still dominate this island nation. These are only symptoms of the true problem, however, the consequences of wrong beliefs.

Nations are built on the foundation of belief systems, and for Haiti, that wrong system is Voodoo, a religion she received from Africa.

As African Traditional Religion forms the religious background of most Africans, so does Voodoo for most Haitians. Someone said Haiti is 80 percent Catholic, 20 percent Protestant and 100 percent Voodoo.

Voodoo appears in two varieties. Ninety-five percent of adherents practice a family-spirit Voodoo associated with relatively peaceful and happy spirits. A small minority practice a black-magic Voodoo in which angry, nasty spirits pronounce death curses, produce zombies and encourage wild sexual orgies.

Devilish and animist connotations aside, Voodoo is first and foremost an actual religion, practiced by millions of  Haitians. The roots of the poverty and suffering  in Haiti go much deeper than economic and political causes. Haiti’s people suffer the harvest sown from Voodoo and its lies.

Lies such as fatalism. Spirits determine one’s life; personal responsibility is absent. A drunkard or a thief cannot be held responsible since the spirits determine everything. The poor have no reason to work for liberation from poverty and hunger: the spirits have determined poverty for them.

Ignorance, illiteracy, a defeatist self-image, and the largely untapped state of human resources are also the fruit of Voodoo’s lies. Few people are highly skilled, and those with skills are often unwilling to work hard. Managers consider themselves above hard work, the domain of laborers.

photo by Paul at freedigitalphotos.net

Can Haiti be freed from the mental stronghold of voodoo and reach her God-given potential? Yes. But only from a new foundation.

The foundation we lay for nations determines their prosperity, success and development. Foundations of ignorance and lies lead to destruction; those of knowledge and truth to development and prosperity.

Natural resources are important, and financial assistance has its place. But the key is not more money. What is essential is destroying the lies embedded in the culture. Lies impoverish and enslave. They destroy and dismantle societies and nations. Biblical truth empowers and strengthens. Truth sets people free and brings success, progress, development and transformation. “If you continue in my word, you are my disciples, and then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).

As someone has said, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.’” People in Haiti are profoundly sick. We must not pretend that all is well when people are dying from hunger and poverty. Indeed, it is the profound duty of the church to lead in the transformation of Haiti. The church can have an impact, not by spiritualizing life, but by bringing biblical truth to replace the lie of fatality, the lies of arrogance and pride of the elites in Haiti. People must recognize that all men were created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). All Haitians—every color, tribe or language—deserve respect and dignity. All languages are important; no one should be looked down upon because of his or her language.

photo by graur codrin at freedigitalphotos.net

Money does not set people free; truth does. Yes, God can deliver through prayer and fasting, but He has established that freedom comes from knowing and living the truth. He calls us to speak biblical truth not just to the church, but to the market place, to politics, to business and government. Christians are best equipped for this, which is why the church must take her place in the development of all of society, not the spiritual only.

God’s concern, and ours, is the total transformation of nations. Including Haiti.

Chris Ampadu

– Chris Ampadu is West Africa Coordinator for Samaritan Strategy Africa. Click here for his paper from which this blog was excerpted.

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  1. Alice Brewster

    September 24, 2010 - 7:05 pm

    I live in Penang, Malaysia a small island off the coast of peninsular Malaysia. 70-80% of the citizens of this island are ethnic Chinese or Indian with animist leanings. As I look out from my 18th floor apt. at the village below I see (and hear) mosques, and a multitude of Indian and Buddhis or Taoist temples. There is hardly a week when some major festival is not going on and nearly every home and business has a small shrine to which they give daily offerings. What holds this place together (to my way of thinking)–it’s biblical roots brought during the colonial period by the missionaries. The vices of gambling are strong with lotteries, a gaming ship which circles the island twice a day, majong and horse racing. If it weren’t for the Chinese’ strong belief in formal education and their work ethic, I feel the place would be no better off than Haiti.