In the stillness of a Haitian night, if you listen carefully you’ll hear a distant drumming. It can be exciting or exhilarating until you realize that it’s the sound of voodoo drums.
Voodoo isn’t a mystical concept from a novel, or an archaic historical fact; it’s alive and well in Haiti. Voodoo thought has informed Haitian thought, culture and customs to the extent that it’s been said that ALL Haitians practice voodoo in some form—even Christians.
Voodoo has seeped into the Haitian Catholic church, making it “voodoo lite” for all intents and purposes. In fact, the official Catholic church has had to sever ties with the Haitian church.
Voodoo isn’t a “harmless” alternate belief system; it is a set of entrenched rituals that have led to the abuse and death of Haitian children. However, an outsider with the goal of influencing thought would do well to first listen and learn.
The book Bruchko contains the best ideas I have ever heard when it comes to working with other cultures. The 19 year old would be missionary had ideas so radical (what? We shouldn’t try to change the earth into mini-westerners?) that he had to set out on his own, doing crazy things like befriending a village witch doctor and helping HIM cure a pink eye epidemic so he could, metaphorically, save face. The entire fabric of the culture was thus preserved, and, of course the witch doctor wanted to learn more about these “greater powers.” Good stuff.
This post is short by design. I am far from an expert and the length of the post is commensurate with my knowledge. But what I do know leads me to think our role as humanitarians, missionaries and zomies is primarily to observe and understand. It’s the only true inroad to lasting impact.
Friends and Readers: I am in Haiti this week, but have left you with a series of short posts highlighting aspects of Haitian culture to encourage thought, discussion, and understanding. The next one will post tomorrow morning. Thanks for reading! See you next week!