Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: Haiti

The Visible and Invisible Poor

I believe we in North America have a problem in the way we see the poor. We are acutely aware of the poor people in Africa and Asia and believe it is up to us to do something to relieve their poverty. We are blind to the existence of poverty in our own countries, because our countries are rich and there is no excuse for anyone to be poor.

Isn’t pride the principal motivator in both cases? We think ourselves better people than those who are poor; as if it was our superior wisdom that caused us to be born in prosperous countries and stable homes.

We send enormous amounts of used clothing, mosquito nets and other goodies to Africa and pat ourselves on the back for our kindness. It is not kindness – these are poisoned gifts that take jobs away from those in Africa who would be fully capable of manufacturing them.

Some years ago there was a surplus of rice in the USA. The government decided that they could help US farmers and the poor people of Haiti by donating the rice to Haiti. It did help US farmers, but before the free rice came there were farmers in Haiti growing rice and plants to process the rice. Those people all lost their livelihoods.

Our supposed generosity is a display of contempt for people in those countries; we are telling them that you are inferior people, incapable of providing for your own needs. Does that sound harsh? Aren’t we just trying to help? We may think we are helping, but we need to step back and look at the gap between our supposedly noble intentions and the damage our gifts are causing. There are voices in Africa telling us, “For God’s sake stop helping us!” We should listen to them.

Contempt is a harsh word, but isn’t that what is really behind our thinking about poor people in North America? Have they truly had the same opportunities as those who are most prosperous? The same respect, the same educational and employment opportunities?

There are many factors that can’t simply be brushed aside. There are the lingering effects of slavery in the USA, the white race riots in the Red Summer of 1919 when white mobs in two dozen US cities rampaged through black neighbourhoods, vandalizing and looting businesses and homes owned by black people, the Detroit riot of 1943 when several black people were offered supervisory jobs in the Packard plant and many other incidents. My father and his brothers grew up in the USA. Anything they ever said about black people indicated that in their minds the inferiority of black people was an unquestioned fact.

In Canada, the residential schools for indigenous people, with supposedly benevolent intentions, undermined the family structures of those people. That brings me to the principal cause of poverty in North America – the lack of fathers. Most young people who get into trouble, most members of street gangs, most petty criminals, most prostitutes, most of the poor people, have not had a father who loved and cared for them, who gave them a sense of security at home.

A friend of ours in Montreal 25 years ago, grew up in Beirut during the Lebanese cic=vil war that lasted from 1975 to 1992. Almost all the buildings in Beirut showed some damage fro the bombs and shooting. Her father, a retired military officer, told his sons that if they enlisted in the army he would not allow them into the house. He did not want to bring the turmoil outside into his home. His sons obeyed their father’s wishes. Our friend told us that whatever the strife around them, she always felt safe and secure at home.

If all men could give their families that level of security, that would go a long way to eliminate the disorders and dysfunctions of our time,.including poverty. If you have grown up with a father like that, thank God for him. And don’t despise those who live in poverty because they have not had the same opportunity.

Books about Haïti

I have never been to Haiti, but we were members of the St Marys, Ontario congregation for 15 years. Several families there have an ongoing connection with Haiti and made us all feel connected to the church in Haiti.  I just obtained my copy of this book today and thought I would copy the Dec. 10 post from John Luke Toews blog: Operation Noah’s Arkhttp://operationnoah-jt.blogspot.ca/

Across the Mountains—Haiti Book is finally available!

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We finally finished the task we set out to do five years ago! Actually I have been working on putting out  a book on Haiti for seven years. A lot of the Haiti articles you have read about on this blog was material I used in this book. Parts of the project go back thirty years ago as missionaries started compiling material together. Across the Mountains is a record of the various programs the COGICM have been involved with in Haiti. Humanitarian work, CSI, 1-W service, history of the congregations, the sinking of the Neptune and Conversion (New Birth) and Earthquake testimonies. It covers a span from 1966-2014.
575 pgs. 70 Illus.
You can order the book from Gospel Publishers or
Prairie View Press
A few months ago I read Haiti, The Aftershocks of History, by Laurent Dubois. © 2012 by Laurent Dubois and published by Metropolitan Books. This is a history of Haiti from the beginning until now. The writer is from the USA, and white, yet does not attempt to paper over the overwhelmingly negative effects of US influence on Haiti, or the racism behind it. A good book to read to understand how Haiti came to be the way it is today and the strengths of the rural society. Dubois is a secular writer and considers voodoo to be a benign and positive force. Apart from that, an excellent book for anyone wishing to understand the country.

Colonial Christianity

The colonial conquerors all considered themselves to be Christians and were convinced that they were bringing enlightenment to the poor heathen of the conquered nations. Francisco Pizarro and his men went for the direct method – they rounded up the Inca leaders, forcibly baptized them and then executed them. In their minds, this expedient served a dual purpose: they were sending the souls of the Inca leaders directly to heaven, while at the same time eliminating the chief opponents of Spanish rule.

Other conquerors may not have been quite so brutal, but all attempted to suppress the indigenous religions and forcibly implant Christianity. One might question whether the kind of Christianity being implanted was really any improvement on the indigenous religions.

Here in Canada, the practices of native religions were banned by law and native children rounded up and sent to residential schools where they were supposedly taught the whit man’s ways and the Christian religion. These schools were run by a variety of churches – mainly Roman Catholic and Anglican.  Verbal abuse was common, which in some establishments escalated to physical and sexual abuse. After finishing school the children were sent back to the reserves to live out the rest of their lives apart from the mainstream of society. The intention may have been good, but those good intentions destroyed homes and lives.

For most of the 20th Century the USA and the Roman Catholic Church expended much effort in Haiti to exterminate the voodoo religion, to little effect. An unintended result is that voodoo and zombies have entered into American folklore with interpretations that are wildly imaginative and do not have much basis in reality. In Haitian Kréyol a zombi is a person under the complete control of a master, in other words a slave. It reflects the fear of individual or collective loss of control, an issue that has never been far from the surface in Haitian history.

I am not wishing to defend voodoo or other native religions. I just don’t think that the sterile and gutted form of Christianity imported by the colonizers was much of an improvement. It is no wonder that there is still much resistance in many places to the “white man’s religion.”

The answer, of course, is indigenous Christianity. Not a different kind of Christianity, but Christianity that is not forcibly implanted and applied from the top down. Christianity that is sown in new places and allowed to take root and grow.

The missionaries of past generations have been accused of being in the service of the colonial powers. Perhaps some were. A great many, however, were concerned with acquainting people with the power of authentic Christianity and giving them the Bible in their own language so that they could take on the task of spreading the gospel among their own people. Where this was done without too much heavy-handedness on the part of the missionaries, the gospel has indeed taken root.

Genuine Christianity is universally relevant, All people everywhere are in need of pure, unadulterated Christianity, applied to their specific situation and needs. Only the Holy Spirit can make true Christianity grow and thrive. Yet there is still a need for those who sow and water, as long as they do not try to take credit for the growth that results.

 

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