The State of Protestantism in Haiti

The State of Protestantism in Haiti

The Haitian government is celebrating 200 years of the presence of Protestant Christianity in Haiti since its arrival in 1816, under the administration of President Alexandre Petion. However, Protestant’s activities in the Caribbean nation can be traced to colonial times and the slavery era in Saint-Domingue. Because Catholic missionaries, who have been appointed by the French monarchy, were chiefly responsible to catechize the enslaved population, the Protestant mission was quickly declined n the first one hundred years, if not less, of the slavery epoch. Also, the Catholic church was the official religion of the state and held tremendous power and influence over the religious and secular education of the Haitian people. Interestingly, Protestantism is the fastest growing religion in contemporary Haitian society; it is estimated 30 to 40% of the Haitian population is actively committed to the Protestant faith, a clear indication of the progressive decline of Haitian Catholicism and Haitian Vodou.

For more about this event, refer to the article listed below:

Les protestants célèbrent leurs 200 ans de présence dans le pays

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New Book on Toussaint Louverture: A Revolutionary Life

Toussaint Louverture: A Revolutionary Life by Philippe Girard

Well, the controversial French historian Philippe Girard’s new biography on Toussaint Louverture, Toussaint Louverture: A Revolutionary Life (Basic Books, 2016), will be released in November. Girard’s interpretation and analysis of Haitian History–both colonial (Saint-Domingue) and contemporary (Haiti)– often departs from the traditional interpretation and what we Haitian scholars and students of Haitian history know about our own history and our own people, and the Haitian experience. In his scholarship, he often undermines African-Haitian self-determination, subjectivity, and our commitment “to live free or die.”

I hope this new book will shift the discourse and tell a more just historical account about the life and experiences of the enslaved African people in Saint-Domingue-Haiti, and their unrelenting commitment to revolutionary freedom, decolonization, radical humanism, and total independence. Let’s also hope in this new work, Prof. Girard upholds the integrity of our historical past, and not undermine the great achievements of revolutionary Haiti in the human narrative of freedom and universal civilization, and more particularly, the enduring contributions of Toussaint Louverture in the struggle against slavery and racism, for human emancipation, human rights, and African-Haitian dignity.

Toussaint

Description

“Toussaint Louverture’s life was one of hardship, triumph, and contradiction. He was born a slave on Saint-Domingue yet earned his freedom and established himself as a small-scale planter. He even purchased slaves of his own.

Philippe Girard shows how Louverture transformed himself from lowly freedman into revolutionary hero as the mastermind of the bloody slave revolt of 1791. By 1801, Louverture was governor of the colony where he had once been a slave. But his lifelong quest to be accepted as a member of the colonial elite ended in despair: he spent the last year of his life in a French prison cell. His example nevertheless inspired anticolonial and black nationalist movements well into the twentieth century.

Based on voluminous primary-source research, conducted in archives across the world and in multiple languages, Toussaint Louverture is the definitive biography of one of the most influential men in history.”

http://www.amazon.com/Toussaint-Louverture…/…/ref=sr_1_sc_2…

Vodou Books Discounted Order Forms/Flyers

Hello, Friends:  Attached are the discounted flyers and order forms for both books:  Vodou in Haitian Memory: The Idea and Representation of Vodou in Haitian Imagination (Lexington Books, May 2016) by Celucien L. Joseph and Nixon Cleophat,  and Vodou in the Haitian Experience: A Black Atlantic Perspective (Lexington Books, May 2016) by Celucien L. Joseph and Nixon Cleophat.

With this flyer and order form , you can purchase both texts at a substantial discounted price. Click on the individual link below to download the form. It is in the PDF format.

Please circulate widely!

vodouea

Joseph & Cleophat Vodou in the Haitian Experience International Flyer2

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Joseph & Cleophat Vodou in Haitian Memory International Flyer1

Vodou and Other Religions: Religion, Religious Affiliation, and Haitian National Identity

Vodou and Other Religions:
Religion, Religious Affiliation, and Haitian National Identity
by Celucien L. Joseph, PhD
 

In this brief post, I would like to communicate a few ideas about three important issues that are intertwined and closely related to each other: religion, religious affiliation, and the construction of self and collective national identity based on certain religious tradition or system. The emphasis of this brief reflection will be on Haitian Vodou and Haitian (national) identity. Here are my 13 propositions:

1. Religious experience could be both personal and collective.

2. Religious piety is not spirituality.

3. Religious affiliation is a choice–at least in most Western societies and nation-states. (I understand it may not be a personal choice in certain countries where religious freedom is limited or not prized!) It is also observed that some countries in the Middle East, for example, have adopted a state religion such as Islam.

4. While a person may be born into a particular religious tradition or system–such as Haitian Vodou, Christianity, Judaism, Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, etc.–genuine religious affiliation, however, should be a personal choice of the individual.

As we say in Kreyol, “Yo pa achte Lwa” (“One cannot buy a Lwa/Spirit) (Nonetheless, I do understand that Vodou is also a family religion, and the religious heritage can be passed on from one generation to the next. However, that in itself does not qualify a family member to automatically become a Vodouizan, a Hougan or Mambo. Allow me to share a personal example: my grandmother from my mother’s side was a mambo (Vodou priestess), and my grandfather from my mother’s side served many lwa, even married to several of them (Spiritual marriage in Vodou). Nonetheless, my mother never practiced Vodou nor has she inherited the tradition or passed it on to her children. My father’s parents (my grandparents) were not Vodou practitioners). From this vantage point, religious affiliation is certainly not an entitlement.

5. Hence, to be born into a Haitian family does not automatically make one a Vodouizan or Vodouist.

6. Haiti is a country. Haitian is a national identity. Vodouizan is a religious affiliation. These three things are not the same and certainly not synonymous or interchangeable.

7. Haitians, both in Haiti and the Haitian Diaspora, have embraced various and competing religious affiliations. Haitians are Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Catholic practitioners, Protestants, Agnostics, Atheists, Secular humanists, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, etc. As a result, Haitians are free to embrace any religious worldview or system.

8. Vodou is one among other religions practiced by Haitians both in Haiti and the Diaspora. Our ancestral faith is not monolithic; it is rather pluralistic. (In fact, Vodou itself is not a homogeneous religion.) Our African ancestors who were brought by force to the island of Saint Domingue brought with them various traditions, practices, customs, and competing religious practices and worldviews including Christianity, African Traditional religions, Islam, etc. While living on the island, they also adopted the religions of the Native Americans, and incorporated them into the religion of Vodou; they have also integrated Christian rituals and theology, and Masonic humanist morality and rituals into Vodou. While a large number of the enslaved population practiced what is now labelled as Haitian Vodou, not all of them were Vodou practitioners.

9. To embrace another religion other than Vodou should not be construed as the devalorization of the Haitian culture—since religions and cultures are human inventions and part of the process and theory we call social constructionism. In a true democratic state, the individual is granted the right of religious freedom and preference.

*The ideology in contemporary Haitian scholarship is that to be Haitian is to be a Vodouizan. Many Haitianist scholars have “essentialized Vodou” as the religion of all Haitians, just like certain individuals have “essentialized” race and culture. This tendency among scholars, both in the Anglophone and Francophone worlds, does not do justice to the reality and the lived-experiences of the Haitian people–both in Haiti and the Haitian Diaspora. I would suggest that Vodou, Christianity, and Islam had played a pivotal role in the Haitian Revolution since Vodou itself is a syncretized faith which integrates Christian moral theology and ritual into its own brand of practice. Secondly, Francois Makandal, Dutty Boukman, and other important maroon leaders, and revolutionary leaders embraced Islam; they were also Vodouizan. Thirdly, the founding fathers Toussaint Louverture and Alexandre Petion were devout Roman Catholic by confession. In 1816, President Petion had invited Protestant Christianity in Haiti–what is now called today “Evangelical Christianity—only 12 yrs after the founding of the new nation of Haiti ( I do understand there is a great divide between Evangelical Christianity of the 19th century and that of the 21st century, as to their political affiliation and theological confessions). Fourthly, a large number of the enslaved Africans practiced Vodou as a religion; on the other hand, the enslaved Congolese who were brought to Saint-Domingue at the end of the 18th century were equally Catholic Christians as Catholicism became the state religion of Congo in early 15th century– even before Christopher Columbus visited the Americas. A large number of the enslaved Senegalese who were brought to the island were Muslims–an important point Jean Price-Mars affirms in Chapter 3 (L’Afrique, ses races et sa civilisation”) in “Ainsi parla l’Oncle.”

In summary, in Haiti’s contemporary society, there are three major religious practices: Vodou, Protestant/Evangelical Christianity, Vodou, Roman Catholicism. (Islam is growing rapidly in Protestant Christianity is practiced by 45% of the Haitian population. It is probably more in 2016–giving the wide spread of Evangelical Christianity in post-earthquake Haitian society.). While Vodou is among the most practiced religions by Haitians in Haiti, Haiti doe not have “one single religious tradition.” Our ancestral faith is also Vodou, Christianity, and Islam.

10. To be a Haitian Muslim or Christian does not make one an inferior Haitian Patriot.

11. In the same line of thought, the Vodouizan is not a superior Haitian than the Haitian atheist or agnostic.

12. Freedom of religion means the opportunity one has to choose or reject a certain faith among others. Religious freedom means a person who is affiliated with a certain religious tradition is free to share his or faith with another individual of a different religious persuasion or to someone who has no religious affiliation.

13. Since religion like culture is a social construction or human invention, no religion or culture has the monopoly.

Hope for Today Education Fund

Hope for Today Education Fund

Click here to support this project via Gofundme

https://www.gofundme.com/vujgzc58

 

In our September trip to Corail, Port-Margot (before school opens), we distributed school supplies to underprivileged families and students. We were able to pass out 122 backpacks and a school kit containing notebooks, color crayons, pencils, pens, rulers, erasers, etc. Unfortunately, because of our limited resources, we were unable to serve and reach out to all the 450 students at the local school, and other children and families in need in the community.

Marchons Unis!

It brings great joy when other people recognize your work and contributions to society, hoping that they’re potentially transforming people’s lives and enhancing human relations. I just found out today that the Haitian magazine named Marchons Unis has published an article about me and the work of Hope for Today Outreach  in Haiti.  They even have me on the front cover of the magazine for the October-December 2015 issue.  I’m humble by this great act of public recognition.  Let’s continue to serve, give, love, and collaborate together to alleviate human suffering and poverty in Haiti and contribute to sustaining and long-lasting development.  Marchons Unis!

 

Marchons Unis

Rethinking Haiti and the Haitian People in the Twenty-first Century

Rethinking Haiti and the Haitian People in the Twenty-first Century

Haiti's flag

As I continue to observe the political situation in Haiti, and the current presidential election crisis in the country, and the reaction of the Haitian people and their discontent about their living condition, I am more compelled today as I were decades ago that my old belief and assessment about the Haitian condition are correct. Haitian instability, the inhumane living condition of the Haitian people, and the country’s development crisis are due chiefly to both internal and external forces. In this brief essay, I reflect on both contributing factors of Haiti’s woes, the relationship between the Haitian politician or public servant to the Haitian state. Finally, I propose a way forward to improve both the Haitian political society and civil society, and the living condition of the Haitian people.

The Internal Causes

The internal causes are directly linked to the country’s heritage of political maladroit, political charlatans and demons, bad governance, and the people’s untamed anger and disastrous ideologies. You can’t build (Haiti was never built before. So we cannot speak of “Haiti’s reconstruction”) a country when you continue to destroy the little that you already have in place. For example, what would any people in their right mind continue to destroy public schools and other public and private institutions that provide public services to the masses, and which were created to respond to their every day needs. The Haitian people MUST respect people’s businesses or property, and say NO to violence. What would the Haitian people burn someone’s vehicle or home when the owner has no political affiliation or contributes to the deadly living condition of the masses?
As a people and nation, for years, we have cultivated a collective mentality to destroy not to build, to deform not to reform, to regress not to progress. This collective attitude is certainly not the most effective strategy to foster social change and the collective emancipation of the Haitian people. It is certainly not contributing to Haiti’s development nor is it leading to human flourishing and human solidarity in Haiti.

As a people and nation, instead of destroying property, public institutions, people’s homes and eventually people’s lives, we should think about other liberative alternatives and human-flourishing methods that will contribute to the (re-) construction of this country, protect what’s already in place, and preserve life. We should come together and think together so we could find ways to improve Haiti’s’ mass illiteracy, food crisis, security problem, and political and civil societies dilemma.

The External Causes

It is not breaking news in the twenty-first century to affirm that Haiti and the Haitian people have been subject to years of American damaging cultural and political imperialism, and destructive interventions by Western countries. It is certainly not breaking news in the twenty-first century that Haitian politics and the electoral process have always been under the radar of the international community (i.e. United States, Canada, France, Germany, etc.). These countries have no respect for the general will of the Haitian people and are relentlessly demeaning the freedom, sovereignty, and democratic ideals and values of Haiti and the Haitian people. Interestingly, they claim to be the protagonists of these very principles they deny to other countries and peoples.
While the creation of the Haitian nation-state and the independence and freedom of the Haitian people, who were once enslaved by Western powers, the continuous existence of Haiti as a nation is seen by many political allies in the West as a challenge to the unholy trinity of the modern world: slavery, white supremacy, and racism. The country of Haiti is a symbolic reminder to many that it is possible to eradicate these three existential demons in the world today.

How now shall the Haitian people live?

a) To Haitian Politicians and Public Servants

1. Haitian politicians need to cultivate unconditional love for Haiti and unqualified love for the Haitian people. They also need to develop patriotic zeal so that they and the Haitian people would be rightly conceived as the guardian of Haiti’s sovereignty, freedom, and independence in the twenty-first century.

2. The Haitian politician or public officer is first a public servant. Being in politics or occupy a public post in the government is a privilege not a right. It is an opportunity to serve your country and your people.
3. The public office is not the access to abuse or exploit the Haitian people in order to achieve selfish political ambitions.
4. When elected to a public office, the best interest of the people come first, and the people and the people alone should be the sole focus of the politician’s political agenda.
5. The patriotic Haitian politician or public servant should sympathize with the Haitian people in their struggle and walk actively in solidarity with the Haitian masses, the poor, the needy, and the oppressed—toward the improvement of their economic condition, and the contribution to their total emancipation in every aspect of life.
6. Haitian politicians need to realize that the love of money and the pursuit of political power to control the country’s resources and to advance one’s dreadful political agendas would ultimately lead to the imprisonment of the people and the regress of Haiti.
7. Haitian politicians or public servants should not be allies of any internal or external power whose decisive aim is to subjugate the Haitian people, and exploit their resources.
8. To the Haitian politicians and public servants: Building a strong and effective economy in Haiti would entail the rejection of the charm and ruse of the global economic capitalism of the West and the East, as well as the refusal of enticing promises of public prominence, wealth, and future opportunities to excel in one’s political career—by the international community.

b) To the Haitian People

1. The Haitian people need to work collaboratively to develop new emancipative narratives for the betterment of Haiti, the enhancement of the Haitian life, and to the value of those who yet to be born.
2. Building a holistic and effective democratic system in Haiti and functioning Haitian civil society is the responsibility of every Haitian citizen.
3. Haitian solidarity means serving one another and the opportunity to uplift your Haitian brother or sister in moments of crisis.
4. Haitian patriotic love means the total rejection of the “Kraze brize” and “koupe tet boule kay” mentality and the total renouncement of the ideology of the destruction of the country’s public institutions, and the private facilities that provide services to the Haitian people. We must say NO to political violence and all kinds of human-orchestrated violence and oppression in the twenty-first century Haitian society.
5. Respect for someone’s property or business is another way to express Haitian patriotic love and human solidarity.
6. The Haitian people must reject the ruse of charlatan politicians whose aim is not the best interest of the Haitian masses but the preservation of their political power and the control of the people.
7. The Haitian people must also reject the ruse and false promises of imperial powers that come only to steal, exploit, and destroy. They are not our friend; they are our enemy.
8. The Haitian people need to support humanitarian causes whose aim is not exploit the Haitian people or their resources but to make constructive contributions to Haiti’s development and enhance the human condition in the country.
9. The Haitian people must say NO to the Haitian bourgeoisie capitalists and the elite-minority, who collaborate with the imperialists and support economic capitalism, who have no interest in improving the living condition of the Haitian people.
10. The Haitian people must work together, support one another, and serve sacrificially, and give unconditionally to improve people’s lives in Haiti.

Conclusion

The Haitian bourgeoisie and elite-minority in Haiti, and those with resources and skills in the Haitian Diaspora must invest in Haiti by working together. They should also work together to create new job opportunities and small businesses, and boost Haiti’s agricultural resources and productions. Secondly, Haitians of all social classes and those with economic resources ought to collaborate and find meaningful ways to effectively use their talents and skills to change Haiti’s education system and improve existing schools and create effective learning centers and universities that will foster hope, social transformation, and engender a new society in the Caribbean nation.

Haiti’s political and civil societies, in their current state, are not contributing to human flourishing and improving lives in Haiti. Thirdly, genuine collaborative partnership between Haitians in the Diaspora and those with financial and intellectual resources in Haiti are desperately needed in the formation of a new class of Haitian entrepreneurs, leaders, professionals, educators in the Haitian society. Such partnership will also help alleviate poverty, prostitution, and reduce child pregnancy in the country. Invest in Haiti’s education is to invest in Haiti’s future and to create a new optimistic life for the younger and future generations of Haitians. Collaboratively, we will improve the overall living and spiritual conditions of the people of Haiti.

Finally, to vote for the best candidate who will work for the people, walk in solidarity with the Haitian passes and the poor, and represent their best interest in the political arena, should not be taken for granted. Haiti as a sovereign and independent nation-state is entitled to have free and democratic elections, and the Haitian people have the right to voice their concerns, and discontent because they know what is best for them and certainly affirm what is best for Haiti. Let the will of the Haitian people triumph!

The future of Haiti is the hands of the Haitian people, and not foreigners or Western imperialists. Our salvation is not coming from an external power; it is coming from us. Our redemption is not coming from above but from below. We have the solution to Haiti’s problems. We are Haiti!