After the Haitian Catholic Clergy Solidarity Meeting in Miami, Frère Buteau, director of public relations, wrote the opinion of Church officials and broadcasted this statement on June 8, 2009: « …Observez le vodouisant. Il offre un culte mais à quel dieu? Il s’agit d’un dieu très mal défini et souvent d’ailleurs de plusieurs dieux rivaux en guerre parfois les uns contre les autres. Pour plaire à ces dieux il faut toujours se fendre en quatre pour leur offrir des sacrifices, parfois de poulets, de cabris, de bœufs et même, tenez vous bien, des sacrifices humains. Le Vodou à cet égard n’est pas éloigné des pratiques des anciens grecs et romains. Eux aussi s’imaginaient qu’il y avait des dieux multiples pleins de caprices, des dieux puissants mais redoutables qu’il fallait constamment apaiser. Nous chrétiens savons que nous n’avons plus de sacrifices d’animaux à offrir à notre Dieu. Jésus, l’Agneau immolé s’est offert une fois pour toutes pour abolir les rites anciens. Lui qui est “dans le sein du Père” par son sacrifice unique a sanctifié pour toujours tous ceux qui croient en lui. Son offrande est parfaite parce qu’il est Fils de Dieu. “Au commencement était le Verbe. Et le Verbe était avec Dieu et le Verbe était Dieu. Et le Verbe s’est fait chair et Il a habite parmi nous.” (Jean 1).. »
The statement misrepresents Vodou. Let it be clear, most Sèvitè or Vodouisant believe that God is Granmèt and God is Bondye. These descriptions of God embody the notion that God is all knowing, all-powerful, eternal, and benevolent. This belief is not new to Sèvitè. It is the documented belief of most Africans, going back centuries. The concept of God is a universal concept. Its meaning transcends geographical barriers, making the Catholic Church’s notion of our God versus their God propagandist and nonsensical.
The Church does not only misrepresent Vodou, but it also misrepresents its own beliefs. The statement insinuates that Church doctrines are derived from greater reasoning when indeed they are based on faith. God is not better defined in Catholicism then in Vodou. Belief in a man, Christ, as God and born of a virgin is a matter of faith and not of reason. It cannot be proven. It can only be believed. Such a situation should tame arrogance. To attempt to offer proof is a serious departure from the bedrock tenant of Christianity as a religion based on faith. In the statement, church officials refer to Vodou as a cult and not as a religion. Presumably, religion is a higher and more moral form of service. Yet officials of the Catholic religion speak of God as a male figure and refer to Christ as the son rather than as the child of God. This habit does not come from reason but from cultures that once believed that men were superior to women. Consequently, in many parts of the world, women were denied their basic human rights, like the right to an education and the right to vote. Those who wrote the statement are poorly informed about Vodou. They proclaim Vodou to have many Gods despite the fact that Sèvitè only speak of God in the singular. Never do Haitians say “N a wè demen si Bondye yo vle.” Haitians believe that there is one God, but there are many Ancestral Spirits called Lwa. Such Ancestors, like Chango and Kadya Bosou, ruled the Nago Oyo empire of Nigeria in the 1100’s and Dahomey in 1708-1740, respectively. We Haitians have always honored our Ancestors as worthy spirits. In the centuries past, we could not depend on institutions like the Vatican to give our foreparents the status of saints. There are countless great European saints, just like there are countless great African Lwas. The two terms originate from different continents, but the basic idea is the same. To discount African Ancestors as worthy spirits is to espouse a Ku Klux Klan like attitude about the world of spirits. Misguided by a flawed concept of Vodou, the statement goes on to say that human sacrifices are performed in Haiti. The Romans commonly made this same accusation against Christians, accusing them of drinking the blood of children. The only human sacrifices made by Christians were the lives lost fighting Roman persecution. Likewise, the only human sacrifices made by Sèvitè in Haiti are the 150,000 lives lost fighting against slavery imposed by the Christian Napoleon Forces. The Catholic Church supported slavery and has yet to apologize for its involvement in the selling of people as slaves. The statement goes on to say that sacrifice is made to appease spirits when indeed sacrifices are a symbolic gesture to show appreciation for assistance that one believes comes from the Ancestors, the Lwas. Foods that a particular Ancestor favored when he or she was alive is what is offered. For example, the Nago people of Nigeria were known for raising ginen fowls (pentad) for that reason pentad is offered to Nago Ancestors. Sacrifice as a symbolic gesture is based on the moral principle of reciprocity. The idea of sacrifice is pervasive in religion, but unfortunately, some religions want to have a monopoly on what constitutes appropriate sacrifice. To argue that eating and drinking the blood of Christ is how sacrifice should be performed is a matter of faith and not of greater reason. In matters of religion, there are many valid viewpoints. The church can speak its perspective without misrepresenting, vilifying, or silencing other voices. Otherwise we are doomed to live in a world where religious persecution, inquisition, and terrorism reign.
Jerry Gilles and Yvrose Gilles Authors of Remembrance: Roots, Rituals, and Reverence in Vodou Sevis Ginen: Rasin, Rityèl, Respè lan Vodou www.bookmanlit.com June 10, 2009