Hope and Despair for Haiti
It’s been a week of strange juxtapositions.
Apparently in the American church, a star football player can say how he played all his games for Jesus and people respond with “awww, what a nice Christian boy.” But say that you are working to put an end to human trafficking in the name of Jesus, and people wonder if you are really a Christian.
Then this morning I was at the gym watching the two TVs in front of me. On one was a story about a rich lady with a huge house who had started a rescue mission for disabled dogs. Each dog is given medical attention, a custom-made “wheelchair”, and lots of love and attention so they can live out their days as happy dogs. On the other TV were images from Haiti. A father carrying his young daughter whose face had been partly smashed-in. It sickened me to think that those dogs were getting far more spent on them and far better medical attention than that young girl ever would. Those dogs get to live as happy dogs, while that girl if she survives, will be deformed for life. With a facial deformity, she cannot get education or find a job. If she manages to not be trafficked into slavery as maid/sextoy in a wealthier house (Haiti being one of the worst offenders for child slavery), her only options will be to beg or prostitute herself in order to survive. She will become the “scum and riff-raff” that gets condemned for making poor countries the corrupt and sinful places many Western Christians see them as. We might pity her for the few seconds she is on CNN and maybe even send enough food to feed her for a few days, but we’d rather build retirement homes for dogs than do the radical work to change the system that oppresses her. What is our problem?
And then there are the true scum like Rush Limbaugh or Pat Robertson who have pulled their typical jackass moves in the aftermath of this tragedy. Pat in your twisted rewriting of history you display perfectly the juxtaposition between what Jesus actually said and what you want him to have said. You want to blame tragedy on personal sins. You take an old Haitian MYTH and read it as fact to support your cause. Sure, the Haitians in order to explain all the shit that has happened to them have a myth saying that when the Spanish came to Hispaniola (the small island shared between the Dominican Republic and Haiti) they surrendered Haiti to the devil in order to dedicate the Dominican Republic to God. Maybe it helps deal with the pain of being a slave nation, that once they threw off the chains of slavery had the US lead a worldwide trade boycott of them and France force them to pay them pack for loss of slave revenue, and then who struggled to survive under that debt, and then were occupied by the US military in 1915 who slaughtered thousands of peasants, stripped their forests of valuable wood, and left the country barren, and who had to deal with the IMF and World Bank funding dictators who destroyed their country and left them with debt that was only forgiven a couple of months ago, and then another US occupation in 1994, and then with trade stipulations and tariff-free US goods that have destroyed their local economy. I would try to create a myth to explain away all that oppression too. But to twist it and say the Haitians deliberately sold themselves to Satan and are now being punished for their own sins (like emancipating themselves from slavery), just shows how out of touch you are with not only reality but with Jesus. When asked whose sin made a man blind, Jesus replied that no one had sinned but that this was a chance for him to be light to the world – to restore sight to the blind, to set the oppressed free. So get your history straight, or at least get Jesus straight and use this opportunity to be a light to the world instead of another harbinger of darkness.
But then I see the wonderful outpouring of aid to Haiti juxtaposed against the fact that most of it will never reach the actual people who need it most. The government in Haiti is so corrupt that most aid that is sent to the country gets funneled into special-interests groups. The privileged just keep getting richer while the poor in Haiti are making mud cookies because they can’t afford food. So I want to just beg everyone to be careful where your money goes. Any relief that has to go through the Haitian government won’t reach the people. So support organizations that are on the ground with the people in Haiti. We’ve partnered with New Life for Haiti before – a group that works to build schools and clinics in the Marfranc region of Haiti. They are seeking aid now to help rebuild homes that collapsed in the earthquake. Bread for the World has also created a list of trusted agencies working to help the people of Haiti. The system needs to be fixed. We can’t put a bandaid on this wound and hopes it goes away. Unless we push for real change, more people will die, children will start being rounded-up and trafficked, starvation will slowly overtake the country, corporations will seize land from its rightful owners, and the 4,000 troops we are sending in will make Haiti a US occupied territory for the third time in a century. Haiti is the only country to successfully stage a slave-rebellion in the name of freedom. We need to help them be free – free from oppression, free from hunger, free from exploitation, and free from poverty.
My heart is breaking over Haiti. I see the state of Christianity in our country and I despair if with our shallow faith and judgmental hearts we can work for good in this world. But as messy and as hopeless as it all can seem, I realize I have no choice but to have hope.