Haiti: From Heaven to Hell
by Fr. Rufus Pereira
Heaven was opened and Mary appeared: for "God has come to help his people" (Lk 7:16)
It was immediately after the healing service, that I was privileged to conduct at the Sea of Galilee, with which the International Catholic Charismatic Pilgrimage to the Holy Land began in September 1997, that the Coordinator of the National Charismatic Renewal Committee of Haiti in the Carribean, Central America, invited me to come to his country and make a similar prayer of healing and deliverance for the Nation and the Church, since Haiti needed a strong prayer of deliverance because of its involvement with voodoo and the terror that had been unleashed under successive dictators. I landed at Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, on Thursday evening, the 8th of April 1999, and was met at the airport by the wife of the former Prime Minister of Haiti, at whose house I would be staying. As she drove me through the city, she spoke about the past sad history and the present confusing situation of her country.
Haiti is one of the most densely populated nations and one of the poorest countries in the world, its 9 million inhabitants being mainly descendants of African slaves brought by French colonists in the 17th and 18th centuries. Most Haitians are Catholics, nominally, but many of them also practice Voodoo, that involves rituals of dance, music, magic, and cults of the dead. The country suffered much under the notorious dictator Francois Duvalier, or Papa Doc, who enforced a reign of terror with his secret police, from his election as president in 1957 until his death in April 1971. His 19-year-old son, Jean-Claude, or Baby Doc, succeeded him, becoming the world's youngest president, and his secret police continued to terrorize the population till he and his family fled Haiti in February 1986.
We arrived just in time for the Mass of Intercession presided over by the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, who asked me after Communion to make a prayer of protection for the forthcoming Convention. Early the next morning I was taken by my hostess to the top of the mountain overlooking the city and was asked to make a prayer of deliverance for the land and the people. Knowing the violence to which their ancestors then, brought here as slaves, and now even they themselves, under tyrannical rule, were subjected, and the hold that their traditional witchcraft still had over them, I felt that Jesus was weeping over Haiti as he once wept over Jerusalem.
The theme of the Conference was significantly "Come back, Yahweh your Father loves you" (Is 43:4-5). I was greatly impressed by the massive crowd of 60,000, many of them youth and even children, so well disciplined and very prayerful, and by the uplifting presence of the Bishops and of the Papal Nuncio, during all the days of the Congress. On Saturday 10th afternoon I led a prayer for healing of the people and for deliverance of the country in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament kept in an imposing gold and jewel studded monstrance taken round the whole crowd and then placed on the magnificent altar. I invited the people to kneel down and touch the earth with their left hand and to look upwards and reach out to heaven with their right hand, as I led them into a powerful prayer of deliverance from Satan's power for the land and the people, and into an anointed prayer of rededication of their land and their nation to the Merciful Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament and under the protection and patronage of Mary, Mother of Mercy.
As I withdrew to the back of the stage where the Bishops were stationed, I noticed that the vast crowd right in front of me seemed to be now all gazing towards the grove of trees on the left of the stage. The eyes of all were riveted on one particular tree in whose branches was seen a light or aura in which not just a handful of visionaries, 6 as at Medjugorje, but the whole crowd of 60,000 seemed to see our Lady, and for a considerable length of time. My own eyes were glued to the base of the tree being lit by regular flashes of light, reminding me of Moses' 'burning bush'. A woman came up boldly onto the stage and testified to me and the Bishops that her five year old blind son whom she was holding in her arms pointed out to Our Lady in the light of that tree, saying, "Mama, that's Our Lady". And then the mother knew that her child had recovered his eyesight through the intercession of 'Mama Maria', Queen and Mother of Haiti - and here he was gazing and smiling at me with his two little arms raised high up in praise.
Our Lady appeared once again to her people of Haiti the next day, Sunday 11th April, the concluding day of the Congress, which in God's providence happened to be Divine Mercy Sunday. I was touched when the Papal Nuncio came up to me and said, "Thank you for what you have done for our country and our people." I learnt later that the healing and deliverance prayer that was made on that day was distributed to all the priests to use in their respective parishes, and that the students of the school, on whose grounds the Congress was held, were keen to have a shrine built on those same grounds, their home, which had been honoured by a visit from Mama Mary, a visit which aroused in them the same feelings of unworthiness and wonder as it did in Elizabeth, "Why should the mother of my Lord come to me?" (Lk 1:43).
The Earth quaked and Hell descended: but "Deliver us Lord from the evil one" (Mt 5:13)
Almost eleven years later, on Tuesday, 12 January 2010, at 16:53 local time, an earthquake of a catastrophic magnitude measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale struck Haiti, which shattered Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital, turning the city into an unimaginable Hell, adding yet another layer of distress to the accumulated misery of a people suffering from extreme poverty, devastated by repeated natural disasters, ingrained corruption, and a succession of dictatorial rulers, for so many decades. Three million people were affected by the earthquake, 200,000 people had been identified as dead, 300,000 estimated as injured and treated and up to 1.5 million survivors left homeless. Death was everywhere in Port-au-Prince. The prominent died along with the poor. The UNO special envoy, Tunisian Hedi Annabi and at least 14 employees have equally lost their lives and 50 to 100 others have disappeared. People pulled bodies from collapsed homes and piled them along the devastated streets of their capital, with children sleeping among the dead. Bodies of tiny children were piled next to schools. The macabre task of handling the never-ending flow of bodies was traumatising for the burial workers. 80,000 were already buried in mass graves that were being dug on a hillside north of the capital using earth-movers to bury the dead.
The immediate need however was to rescue people trapped and stuck in the rubble, especially the children, because they were still in school in the afternoon when the earthquake hit, and so many schools seem to have collapsed. Even the Senate president was among those trapped alive inside the Parliament building. Rescuers searched late into the night for survivors with dogs and sonar equipment. Everywhere one would hear cries of those trapped under the rubble, while the grief-stricken tried to dig out their relatives with their bare hands. A five-year-old was pulled out from the wreckage of his home after being sought for a week. A teenage girl was rescued from the rubble of a college after 15 days. The health care system too in Haiti has been terribly affected by the earthquake. Medical staff have been killed and injured, hospitals and clinics destroyed and stocks damaged and depleted. There were new outbreaks of infectious diseases, and Haiti's quake refugees were facing an increased risk of dengue fever, malaria and measles, respiratory diseases from inhaling dust from collapsed buildings and diarrhea from drinking contaminated water in squalid camps. Doctors and aid workers were running dangerously low in medical supplies, because it was very difficult to deliver tons of food, water, medicine and tents quickly to millions in need and living outdoors, since the roads and ports were damaged and the airport was a tiny one.
Since Haiti's justice ministry and courts were destroyed in the disaster, which also killed many judicial officials, everything possible had to be done for children, separated from their parents and especially parentless or lost children, to have their families traced and to be reunited with them. For being more vulnerable to be seized and sold, since sex trafficking has been rampant in Haiti, they needed to be protected from gangsters and child traffickers who would exploit them in the chaos triggered by the earthquake. Even the main prison in the capital, the National Penitentiary, fell down and more than 7000 detainees escaped and were running wild and clambering over the rubble into shops at street markets to grab anything they could. Elsewhere, with the black out and amid the smoke from bonfires burning uncollected bodies, bands of machete-wielding young bandits roamed the streets, faces hidden by bandanas, preying on vulnerable earthquake survivors, even harassing and raping women and young girls in makeshift camps set up in the capital after the disaster.
The powerful earthquake flattened many notable landmark buildings, the UN headquarters, the Presidential Palace, the Parliament with senators, the National Assembly building, numerous government buildings, hotels housing western tourists, supermarkets, hospitals, schools with children, and whole neighborhoods. It is estimated that 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings had collapsed or were severely damaged. Tens of thousands of people lost their homes as buildings that were flimsy and dangerous even under normal conditions, being shoddily built, collapsed and have all been reduced to rubble. Most Haitians are desperately poor, and most people in Port-au-Prince live in tin shacks and in brutal living conditions. Religious communities were also devastated by the earthquake that left their buildings completely destroyed and many of their members dead. The Catholic Cathedral, the Archbishopric, all the important churches and all the seminaries have been reduced to rubble. Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot of Port-au-Prince himself was among those killed in the collapse. The Salesians lost 500 students in their facility. The Redemptorists lost an entire school with 300 students inside. The Collège of Soeurs de La Charité de Saint-Louis de Bourdon, on whose grounds we had the Charismatic Convention and Healing Service in 1999, was completely destroyed. The Institute of Studies for Men and Women Religious collapsed with several people inside who were attending a conference.
One cannot but describe the earthquake as a disaster of Biblical proportions and it is difficult to comprehend such unimaginable destruction and unexplainable deaths, especially when I recall Mary's astounding visit in Haiti almost 11 years ago. But on looking into the internet I found no reference to this heavenly happening, except in my report in the website 'holyspiritinteractive', nor an indication of any earthly monument or shrine set up on the site of her apparition. Instead I read that Haiti, having ended its recognition of Catholicism as the state church in 1987, had declared Voodoo an official religion in early 2004. The National Charismatic Convention in 2002, which I was unable to attend though expected, invited the participants to stamp the devil under their feet, but the contrary seems to have happened 8 years later.
It looks as if the wrath of God has fallen upon the Caribbean nation, known for its history of religious syncretism - mixing elements of various faiths, including voodoo, sorcery and other occult practices. But why would God not stop this calamity, in spite of the constant prayers of the just and faithful? God cannot stop the consequences of man's sin from having their due effect, because he respects our free will, but he permits these 'punishments' as means of our correction, like a loving father does for his children, so as to change and transform us and bring us back into his loving embrace and plan, as the theme of their National Catholic Charismatic Convention invited the Haitians on Divine Mercy Sunday in April 1999:
"Come back, Yahweh your Father loves you" (Is 43:4-5).
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