of Haitians crowded churches in the capital Friday for a national day
of mourning a month after the magnitude-7.0 earthquake killed more than
200,000 and left this Caribbean country struggling for survival.
filled churches in Port-au-Prince’s Petionville suburb and set up
loudspeakers so those in the streets could follow. Religious leaders
gathered for an ecumenical ceremony near Haiti’s shattered National Palace to pay their respects to the dead.
Hymns and gospel music pumped throughout the city’s apocalyptic landscape of flattened concrete and sloping buildings.
day is about honoring all those we lost and looking toward the future,”
said Percil St. Louis, 43, a Catholic. “We all need to come together as
Those killed in the Jan. 12 quake included church
leaders, missionaries and children studying at faith-based schools. The
Roman Catholic archbishop of Port-au-Prince, Joseph Serge Miot, was
among those who perished.
Leaders from all of Haiti’s
major religions were taking part in the ecumenical ceremony, but it was
only at the last minute that Voodoo priests were included. Voodoo
leaders worried the Christian ceremony would fall short of rituals they
usually perform when praying for the safe passage of souls in the
Since the quake, some Voodoo followers have
converted to Christianity, some enticed by steady aid flows through
evangelical missions, others out of a fear of God.
earthquake scared me,” said Veronique Malot, a 24-year-old who said she
joined an evangelical church two weeks ago when she found herself
living in one of the city’s many outdoor camps. “Voodoo has been in my
family but the government isn’t helping us. The only people giving aid
are the Christian churches.”
Voodoo evolved in the 17th century when the French brought slaves to Haiti
from West Africa. Slaves forced to practice Catholicism remained loyal
to their African spirits in secret by adopting Catholic saints to
coincide with African spirits. Today, many practice both religions in
Since the quake, Scientologists, Mormons, Baptists, Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other missionaries have flocked to Haiti
in droves — feeding the homeless, treating the injured and preaching
the Gospel in squalid camps where some 1 million people now live.
In many of the outdoor camps, trucks with loudspeakers blast evangelical music while missionaries talk to families under tarps.
U.S. Agency for International Development channels hundreds of millions
of dollars in overseas aid each year through faith-based groups, though
there is no definitive tally of how much of the aid for Haiti comes through Christian groups.