Haiti, a country rooted in voodoo, hit by deadly earthquake: Killing over 300 people

A 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti on Saturday morning, killing at least 304 people and injuring more than 1,800. The Haitian government declared a state of emergency in the most affected regions. A tsunami warning was issued after the earthquake but was rescinded after the threat had passed.

It should be noted that being the descendants of African slaves, Haitians practice Voodoo (literally ‘spirit’), a unique form of paganism that mixes African idolatry with Roman Catholicism.

The United States Geological Survey put the earthquake in its “red alert” category.

“High casualties and extensive damage are probable and the disaster is likely widespread. Past red alerts have required a national or international response,” the USGS said.

“There are reports of significant damage to homes, roads, and infrastructure,” American Red Cross spokeswoman Katie Wilkes said.

Tropical Storm Grace is forecast to reach Haiti late Monday night or early Tuesday morning.

Samantha Power, the head of the United States Agency for International Development, authorized US aid to Haiti.

History of catastrophe

Haiti has been struck by many tragedies in recent years. Last month, Jovenel Moïse, the president of Haiti, was assassinated and the first lady wounded by a group of mercenaries. 

In 2004, torrential rains and the ensuing flooding caused 1,232 deaths, 1,443 disappearances, and 31,130 displaced persons. Later in the same year, Hurricane Jeanne killed over 3,000 Haitians. 

In 2010, a 7.0 earthquake with death toll estimates ranging from 100,000-160,000. Haitian government figures ranged from 220,000-316,000. The earthquake generated a tsunami, albeit with minor and localized damage. 

Later in 2010, a cholera epidemic hit outside of Port-au-Prince, killing at least 3,597 and sickening over 340,000. 

In 2016, Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti with catastrophic flooding of up to 40 inches and a storm surge of up to 10 feet. At least 580 people were killed and more than 35,000 were left homeless by the storm.

Repent for idolatry

When queried about the recent history of natural catastrophes, Rabbi Yosef Berger, the rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, noted that since this is the month of Elul, as a national entity, Haiti should do introspection on their relationship with God.

“In the days of the Temple, all of Israel, in fact, all of the nations, engaged in heightened prayer and repentance, knowing that the Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur service was about to be carried out,” Rabbi Berger said. “As we approach the final redemption, this becomes even more urgent.”

It should be noted that being the descendants of African slaves, Haitians practice Voodoo (literally ‘spirit’), a unique form of paganism that mixes African idolatry with Roman Catholicism. Voodoo (also spelled Vodou) was closely linked with the Haitian Revolution in the late 1700s. Many of the leaders were chosen because of their status as oungans (male priests). According to legend, a Vodou ritual took place in Bois-Caïman on 14 August 1791 at which the participants swore to overthrow the slave owners. After this ritual they massacred whites living in the local area, sparking the Revolution.  Various accounts from that night describe a tempestuous storm, animal sacrifices, and voodoo deities. Though some relate to voodoo as a religion or a vehicle of social good, even the Haitian government recognized it as a negative element, outlawing the practice of voodoo from 1835-1987. Today an estimated 60 million people practice voodoo worldwide.

Voodoo is rooted in the worship of nature and ancestors – and the belief that the living and the dead exist side by side – a dual world that can be accessed through various deities. Similar to Greek paganism, the practitioners of voodoo worship a pantheon of gods called ‘Loa’ and involves animal sacrifice to replenish the life energy of the gods. The Loa sometimes communicate prophecies, advice, or warnings while the believer is possessed by their spirit. Haitians believe that the Loa most often express their displeasure by making people sick. The Loa are believed to entirely determine the lives of people with little or no free will playing a role.

“As one of the nations, Haiti is required to observe the Seven Noahide Laws, one of which is the prohibition against idolatry,” Rabbi Berger said. “They worship nature which is a perversion of worshipping elohim, the aspect of God that is expressed through nature and represents judgment. As such, it is nature that is used by God to punish them and hopefully leads them to repent and worship the true God.” 

“Every nation is getting a message from God specific to that nation, and in addition, the entire world is being drawn to repent through the pandemic. The cure for each of these tests, whether it is a disease or natural catastrophe, is the same; turn to Hashem and throw away these false beliefs.” 



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