(Photo: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)
Two years after a devastating earthquake killed an estimated 300,000 people in Haiti, Christianity is fast replacing Voodoo in the lives and practices of the people, a missionary has revealed.
According to the Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook, there is a fusion of beliefs in Haiti – 80 percent of people profess to be Catholic, and another 16 percent are Protestant yet roughly half of the population still practices Voodoo.
However, it is no secret that Christianity has been expanding as a religion in Haiti – and a host of Christian missionaries and charity organizations who flew to the Caribbean nation to help the millions in desperate need have also contributed to a large conversion movement.
One such group, the Haiti Foundation of Hope, a Christian organization addressing the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the people in the impoverished rural communities of northern Haiti, has built a number of community health programs in local villages and has seen firsthand people giving up their Voodoo beliefs and turning to Christ.
"The background of the religious belief in Haiti has been Voodoo. This came from Africa, and has been integrated into Catholicism. My experience is that as Haitians have come to know the love of Christ, there has been a huge number of people who have left the Voodoo and turned to Christ," Linda Markee told The Christian Post. Markee is the secretary, board and founding member of the Haiti Foundation of Hope and has spent two years living and working in the Caribbean nation.
"After the earthquake especially, people were turning to the Lord. Every single person that was in Haiti felt the earthquake – it wasn't just people in Port-au-Prince that felt it. Everyone has been affected by it – most have lost family members. In a country where there is no real decentralization of the government – they all felt it. And I have seen people come to Christ, and have not gone back to Voodoo."
"Most of the people who are following the Voodoo know that the Voodoo gods have no power – and most of them see that they get nothing from Voodoo. As Christians have come to work in different villages, and especially those that start a Holistic ministry, there are some definite changes taking place," she continued.
Markee noted that while the country is growing more and more toward Christianity, there still exists a certain level of conflict between the Christian missionaries and people who are unwilling to accept the changes taking place.
"The conflict is going to come from the witch doctors, rather than from the people. In our village, one of the things we started was a community health program – we had three villages that were fairly close together – so we had 10 community health workers that we trained in these three villages."
"Last year, they heard about a woman that had a baby and suffered from a severe infection after the baby was born. She was dying – the baby too, because she had no milk, and was languishing in this hut of a witch doctor," the Haiti Foundation of Hope founding member said.
"Our community health workers heard about that – and they had to climb very high into the mountains (to reach the hut) and they had to confront the witch doctor. In years past, no one was able to confront a witch doctor – because there was so much fear. But they were able to talk to him and tell him that the woman needed to go to a clinic, or she was going to die," she continued.
"Finally, the witch doctor threw his arms in the air and said 'Fine, but if you leave here, you will die.' The workers, however, lifted the bed with the mother and the baby, and carried them down the mountains. They brought her to a hospital, where they gave her antibiotics, and she survived. I have seen her recently with her baby – they are both fine and are now church members."
According to Markee, there is such a strong movement of people in Haiti converting to Christianity because they have been affected by the missionaries and see the love of God through their work, and also because they realize that Voodoo has no real power.
"We have even had a woman at the village who was a witch doctor – it took time for her to convert, she was 70 years old, but she did convert and it was a wonderful, joyful time. And even before she converted – she admitted that they (Voodoo witch doctors) did not have the power of the Christian church – I think they know that," she concluded.