Summary: How do we respond to Haiti faithfully?

Our response to Haiti

Where is God in Tragedy?

La Presse reporter Chantal Guy was in Port-au-Prince when the quake struck. She shares this exclusive report with the Star

Chantal Guy Special to the star Published On Thu Jan 14 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE–On the highways and the streets, they are walking, by the hundreds, in silence.

This kind of silence is rare in Port-au-Prince.

Some bear their dead, covered in sheets, on stretchers. They don't know where to go.

Those who aren't walking sit in groups in front of homes that are no longer livable, scattered in waves all the way to the gardens of the legislature, where makeshift camps have sprung up.

"God is angry," a man calls to us.

A woman's long wail pierces the air from the mountain. Just one.

From where I'm writing, the starry sky is cloudless. Earlier we heard people praying and singing. Yes, there are many prayers in Port-au-Prince – a city where the words "God" and "Jesus" are everywhere.

One might think they can't hear.

While many of us responded with shock and deep concern, often we have that nagging question of “Why?” in the back of our heads, why does this happen? Like Chantal Guy, you might just be angry with God & say that he is not there, he is not listening.

Some of you might have heard, and were horrified at Pat Robertson’s answer to the “Why?” question.

This is a quote from Robertson on the day after the Tragedy: "Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III, or whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the Devil. They said, we will serve you if you'll get us free from the French. True story. And so, the Devil said, okay it's a deal."

Robertson believes that God has cursed Haiti because of that pact with the devil over 200 years ago. – All of Haiti’s troubles including this earthquake are punishment from God.

Haiti’s History

The tragedy of Haiti — which, along with the Dominican Republic, makes up the island of Hispaniola — begins with Christopher Columbus's first voyage to the Americas. Estimates of the island's Taino population at that moment are as high as eight million. Eighteen years later, the native population was about 50,000. By time the French came in the second half of the 17th century there were no natives left at all. They had been worked to death, murdered and decimated by European disease. The French took the western third of the island and named the territory Saint-Domingue.

The French turned the colony into a plantation economy, powered by slave labour. "By 1789, the colony supplied three-fourths of the world's sugar." The wealth Haiti generated for France was enormous. In 1776, it was generating "more revenue than all 13 North American colonies combined." But that wealth came on the backs of the slaves that produced it. 29,000 African slaves were arriving in Haiti every year, just to keep the population stable. One third died within three years of their arrival. Those that lived suffered the whip, rape, and terrible tortures.

In 1791, the slave uprising began. 13 years later, the French had been routed and the new leaders reclaimed the island's Indian name, “Ayiti.” According to one historian, it is the only example of "an enslaved people breaking its own chains and using military might to defeat a powerful colonial power."

Independent Haiti started with a devastated economy and infrastructure as well as the hostility of much of the rest of the world's rulers. The Haitians had burned the French off the Island. The U.S. and Europe isolated Haiti. Soon it was an era of gunboat diplomacy, with Germany, France, England and the U.S. sending ships into Haitian waters to enforce their demands.

20 years after independence, as the king's King Charles X warships cruised just over the horizon from the Haitian capital, a French emissary demanded 150 million gold francs in exchange for recognizing the new republic. The implicit alternative was invasion and re-enslavement.

It was a huge sum, about five times Haiti's annual export revenue. Haiti's then-president reluctantly agreed, taking on a crushing debt.

The U.S. Was the main aggressor against Haiti: they sent warships to Haiti at least 30 times from 1849 to 1915. From 1915 to 1934, they outright occupied Haiti, After the Americans left, 12 years of repressive stability followed. Then a period marked by military coups culminated in the army's installing Dr. François Duvalier in 1957.

"Papa Doc," and his son Jean-Claude (known as "Baby Doc") would rule Haiti until protests forced the latter dictator to flee in 1986. In 1982 a Canadian parliamentary committee had described their rule as a "kleptocracy." both tyrannical thieves were propped up by the US because of their anticommunist rhetoric in the Cold War.

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