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Date: Sun, 18 Feb 1996 16:49:47 -0800 (PST)
From: Bob Corbett <bcorbett@crl.com>
To: Bob Corbett <bcorbett@crl.com>
Subject: Evangelical missions in Haiti: Chamberlain comments 1
Message-Id: <Pine.SUN.3.91.960218164758.15740U-100000@crl.crl.com>

Evangelical missions in Haiti

Part of a dialog on Bob Corbett's Haiti list, February 1996

Date: 18 Feb 96 18:52:19 EST
From: Greg Chamberlain <100074.2675@compuserve.com>

I cannot recall any political stands taken by US evangelicals before or after 86, either for or against the Duvaliers. But yes, they tend to echo in private the right-wing conservative positions they hold in the US. Some of the mainstream Protestant groups have occasionally added their voice to radical manifestos or protests, but nothing dramatic.

The most prominent Protestant station, Radio Lumiere, run/guided by US missionaries, has taken one or two mild stands over the past 30 years. It was among the radio stations that took advantage, news-wise, of moments of weakness of the Duvaliers. But they'd soon draw back, as their main concern was to avoid getting shut down. They've been smashed up several times, though, and got their share of trouble under the recent military regime.

Rosny Desroches, a leading Methodist who was education minister under Namphy-I (and who was soon purged as a 'liberal'), has been pretty forthright at times, but says nothing these days. He was principal of the Nouveau College Bird, the country's best secondary school (in PauP), and now heads a large ecumenical educational development agency.

Alain Rocourt, then head of the Methodists, was a senior member of the Elections Board (CEP) which organised the (failed) 1987 national elections. And er... Cedras was a practising Methodist... (very embarrassing for the 'clean' Methodists).

Sylvio Claude, the heroic (though ill-fitted for power) opposition figure from 1979 until about 1988, was a member of the Church of God and ran his party, the PDCH (Christian Democrats), a bit like a church. Everyone admired him at a time (1979-85) when few dared to oppose the Duvaliers. He's even reputed to have spat in JCDuvalier's face when once hauled before him, though that may be apocryphal.

Pastor Luc Neree, a Baptist leader, and his son Bob were heroes of the tiny opposition movement in the late 1970s, and their newspaper (Haiti Jeune-Presse) was the first to question the legality of the life-presidency (1977). The old man is now dead and Bob has taken over the family church just above Bas Bowen (on the Delmas road). He became a neo-Duvalierist after the Duvaliers left (like some others), after having made an important contribution to bringing them down. Bob, as a senior civil servant, was a Deep Throat for Haiti-Observateur for a decade when the paper was leading the fight against the Duvaliers, before it became the shameless far-right rag it is today.

The Haitian pastors who've contested recent elections (Vladimir Jeanty et al.) routinely get less than 0.2 % of the vote.

Whatever the positions of the missionaries (no pun intended!), their solid work still speaks for itself, in the sad absence of any effective activity by the state. Only a few loony groups, plus the Mormons (who, disgracefully in such a desperate place as Haiti, only believe in proselytising), might be said to have a negative effect on daily life. Never mind, for the moment, about whether religion is the opium of a struggling people etc.

Greg Chamberlain

Date: Sun, 18 Feb 1996 07:47:39 -0500 (EST)
From: Tom F Driver <tfd3@columbia.edu>

In all this discussion with Dan Jenkins about US evangelical missions in Haiti, one factor seems to have been overlooked. And that is the role those missions have played, or not played, in the struggle of Haitians to rid themselves of Duvalierism. It is my impression that most evangelicals and other Haitian Protestants have either supported the regime or else kept very quiet about it, at the same time that many Haitians were risking their lives in the cause of freedom. Does anyone have further information on this point?

Tom Driver