Searching for answers in Haiti

The incredible devastation and destruction caused by the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti has prompted many to wonder why a nation already so impoverished would experience such tragedy.

Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, a former physicist and U.S.  director of the Catholic lay group Communion and Liberation, attempts to shed some light on understanding the tragedy in a Jan. 15 America magazine blog

The priest asks: “By what measure do we comprehend something like this? What could ever make it so understandable that we can eliminate from our hearts and minds the cry that surfaces again and again, the cry of why?”

He also notes that amid the tragedy “the church was not spared anything. The cathedral collapsed killing the archbishop, seminaries and convents were destroyed, killing future priests and dedicated religious sisters.”

Msgr. Albacete said he couldn’t offer “an explanation for why this God allows these tragedies to happen” as any attempt at explaining would “reduce the pain and suffering.” Instead, he said he can only “accept a God who ‘co-suffers’ with me. Such is the God of the Christian faith.”

Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, similarly told a Catholic news agency that “thousands of homilies will be given in the coming days to help us understand how a loving God could allow such suffering.”

Without mentioning the televangelist Pat Robertson by name, Anderson said “one of the more controversial explanations” of the destruction in Haiti “came from a Protestant evangelist who stated that Haiti had been ‘cursed’ ever since its founders had ‘sworn a pact with the devil’ to achieve the nation’s independence from France.”

Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, gave his explanation of his perceived root of Haiti’s troubles in a Jan. 13 segment on his network.

The Christian Broadcasting Network quickly backpedaled on the comments on their Web site where a spokesman said Robertson didn’t mean to imply the earthquake was the Haitians’ fault, and that he was merely repeating a legend that has led “countless scholars and religious figures over the centuries to believe the country is cursed.”

The legend, that Haiti was built on a pact with the devil has circulated on a number of Web sites tracing back to an tale of Haitian voodoo priests offering sacrifices prior to the slave revolt that led to the country’s founding.

A CNS story in 1991 recounts the 200th anniversary of this event and the controversy around it, noting that the streets were relatively quiet in the capital city Aug. 14 as Haitians prepared an evening of celebration of the Aug. 14, 1791, meeting by slaves to plot the overthrow of their French colonial masters.

Details of the anniversary of this event note that plans were “fraught with controversy between members of Protestant sects and those who follow a mix of Catholicism and traditional African religion, with the Catholic president in the middle.”

The CNS story continues: “The evil spirits invoked at Bois Caiman have brought a curse on this country,” according to a pastor during one of many anti-voodoo street marches. Bois Caiman is where African slaves met to plot the uprising 200 years ago. Tradition maintains that to ensure their success they held a voodoo ceremony that included a blood pact and the sacrifice of a pig.

 A week later, slaves rose up and in a single night burned sugar-cane fields, mills and plantation houses and killed thousands of Frenchmen.

The government planned to hold a secular commemoration — including drumming throughout the country at midnight — but even this drew Protestant criticism.

One Protestant group invited all Christians to pray at midnight “to free Haiti from the baleful influence of the voodoo spirits and reconsecrate it to Christ.”

Even though some type of voodoo meeting took place more than 200 years ago at the start of Haiti’s founding, other Christian leaders are hardly pointing to it as the cause for the current devastation.

Anderson pointed out that there is “ample evidence in the Old Testament of nations being punished by God for idolatry and injustice and some Christians continue to look to this Old Testament history for explanations of world events.”

“But Catholics today are more likely to look in a different direction to understand how God deals with human sinfulness. And they need look no further than at the crucifix above the altar in their church. God has freely and lovingly united himself with human suffering in the sacrifice of his Son upon the cross,” he said.

He also added that the tragedy in Haiti is “likely to have long-lasting effects, not only for the people who have lost loved ones there, but for an entire generation that has witnessed its destruction. And it is important that we get the right understanding of what has occurred there.”

4 Responses

  1. Dear leader of this comment, don´t ask many questions in relation to what has or happening in Haiti, but please try to understant that God does this to make us understant him more and to appreciate his constant love for us daily in different ways. I have come to this thinking that, God want us to to learn his ways not the way we understant our ways. In our daily lives we face problems, and we do this individually. Some times God permits such pain like earthquake to happen and to affect a group of people. Its not a collective punishment, but I think God want us to understant that as at times we face individual pain, catastrophies and its difficult to get attention from others, and yet each individual´s suffering is worthy paing attention for. So thats why he lets this group or mass suffering to happen so that those individuals who cant get personal attention can get it thru group or mass suffering, like exactly what is happening now in Haiti. We must also understand that God permits this to show to humanity that His love will always prevail disregarding the nature of our individual or group suffering. The love of God is now being manifested in the support of different people who have donated to Haiti´s cause and those who are now offering to rebuild Haiti. Am sure before the earthquake not many journalits could think of reporting much about Haiti despite the fact that there were many people suffering daily, but now we see many doing so. This makes us not to question much , but to make us understand that no matter what kind suffering we face, God is with us. He is now with the people of Haiti thru the different people, countries or NGOs whose attention is now focused to Haitians. Should one question whether God truly loves Haitis ? My personal answer is Yes, God Love them, and thats why there are now even more people who have come to know Haiti on the world map and to give help to them. All this is God´s love being manifested in these people now comming up to help Haitis. Dear leader, i want to end with personal philosophical way of interpreting such a situatuion.,” evil prevails sometimes so that something good may come out of it”. So i can also say that God delibarately permits such suffering not because he wants people to suffer, but to use this suffering for the betterment of the desparate situation. Now what has happenedt to Haiti, has brought the world together than before, am sure there also Haitis who have become more believers in God than before. The real social and economic desparate situations which the people of Haiti were experiencing have now been more profoundly exposed to the entire world, so we now know exactly whats on ground. God is calling the entire world to be more concerned about others suffering through this earthquake episode. Its not a punishment, but its God´s way of teaching to us that truely his love for us will never end no matter how much we suffer individually or in a group. We always get Gods Love back through different ways.

  2. The answer to why earthquakes happen is clear and simple, but will offer little comfort, I dare say, to those who are suffering the effects of this recent disaster. The tectonic plates of the earth must move in order to support life. Earthquakes are an inevitable effect of this movement.

    All creatures live on the fine line between creation and destruction, but God has determined that the destruction inherent in creation is worthwhile in order that we may be created, love and may love Him. It is not a decision we could imagine making ourselves, but a mystery beyond our comprehension and we must trust in God.

    God willing, this event will bring long awaited change for Haiti. Peace.

  3. I live in a town that had a 7.1 earthquake in 1989. Even with the size and scope less than one hundred people died. We have moved so far from understanding our planet that we assume it will stand still. With time and love we will understand earthquakes and tsunamis and no how better to prepare for them. But we must do this for all people and the poor especially.

  4. The way Catholics understand is as someone who
    regularly spoke the truth with love often said,” As He
    makes the sun to shine on the evil and the good, and
    the rain to fall on the just and the unjust; When the
    justice falls, it will fall on the faithful and the unfaithful.”.

    Catholics are also taught that the ten commandments are commandments, not merely suggestions. We are
    taught the ten commandments, which come from the
    old testament are still in effect.

    We are taught at least with words, ” You cannot serve
    two masters.” We are also taught to stay awake, to be
    watchful. ” You can read the signs of the earth. Why
    can you not read the signs of the times?”.

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