The concept of Religious Freedom, for many only extends to what they percieved as approved religions. Unfortunately, the view that people have of religions that lay outside of their everyday experience is often clouded by myth and sensationalistic distortions.
Evangelical Americas view of Haitian Vodou, it is a case beyond xenophobic fear. All of the myths of popular literature, cinema and culturally blind narratives by travellers are mixed up with their own beliefs in heaven, hell, god and the devil.
Haitian Vodou is an ancient religion. It could be said to date back 10,000 years. It originated in western Africa and specifically with a tribal group called the Fon. But, it is really a synthesis of practices and ideas taken from most of the central African cultures.
When the Africans were taken by the French slave trade and brought to Haiti to replace the original Carib Arawak Indian population that had died out due to exposure to European disease and slavery, they brought their religion with them. Over the course of the next 300 years, the religion was further synthesized with Christian mythology. We see this same mixture in the other variations of Carribean native religions, like Santeria which is practicved in Cuba and Peurto Rico, Santeria and Vodou have a lot in common. They are basically montheistic, one main god figure, but a host of spirtits or deities which in Vodou are called Ioa. They can have postive or negative attrributes.
Without going into a lengthy description of the religion, there are male priests (houngan) and female priests (mambo). Their main role is healing. The healing is accomplished by a mixture of faith healing and herbal medicine.
Human sacrifice is not now or has ever been a part of Vodou. There are black magicians called "bokor". They are sorcerors outside the mainstream of Vodou and it is from them that the myths of zombies and Vodou Dolls originate. The idea of Vodou Dolls is a concept that runs through out the history of western metaphysics. Practices much like vodou dolls exist in the folk traditions of Europe. I live in rural France and I have actually consulted a magnetic healer to deal with a chronic shoulder pain. I can't explain what happened, but it worked. I have friends who are reasonably intelligent who consult country "specialists" for psychic assistance. They are advised to perform rituals and the placement of charms to help them. Of course much of their results are psychological, but it only reinforces the real connection between the mind, body and belief.
Vodou is a recognized religion in Haiti and also the official religion in Benin, in West Africa. After the Haitian earthquake, there were ceremonies in Benin for the Haitians.
Haiti is in chaos and turmoil now. It is socially, physically and psychically ripped apart.
Part of the foreign aid that has flooded the country is the invasion of American religious organizations who are using the disaster to reap souls. There have been many, many recorded cases of aid from these groups being based on religious conversion.
I have read many cases of people who have said that they would say anything to get aid and food because it was a matter of pure survival.
The after shocks of the big quake continue on an almost daily basis. Monday saw a 4.7 quake which toppled already weakened structures. The quakes less than 4 are rarely recorded because most of the seismic equipment on the island has been damaged.
As the aftershocks continue, the paroxysms of a traumatized population are being exploited by the religious opportunists. On February 23, a large ceremony was being held in Cite de Soleil for the dead. It was a Vodou ceremony to guide the lost souls and there were thousands in attendance. Urged on by Evangelical Christians, the ceremony was disrupted by stones and destruction of the Vodou altars which were actually urinated on.
What next for Haiti? An enslaved people fight a war for freedom, only to be crippled by massive foreign debt, oppressed by dictators supported by foreign interests, hurricanes, earthquake and now an Evangelical Christian, foreign interest inspired religious war....
Doctors Without Borders is still on the frontlines providing medical assistance, they wwere there before the quake and will be there long after. They need you donations and the button on the side of the blog is till active!