Bondye Manman Mwen: Embracing God as Both Mother and Father
In Haiti, it is not uncommon to hear people call out to God as one would call out to one's mother:"Bondye Manman mwen."The expression likely arrived in Haiti from the former African homeland, Ginen. There in Africa, the people of Allada, Dahomey considered God to be both mother and father. Today, beyond the African horizon, in some Haitian circles, God seems to be losing her female half and is being replaced by a chauvinistic notion ofGod as uniquely masculine.Thisview was passed on to Haiti by the Christian Churches which adapted their view of Godfrom the male dominated societies of the Middle East.The legacy of this tradition lives on in organizations like the Vatican where verification of male sex is required before the selection of a Pope.
In Traditional African Faiths, God has always been entirely spirit and never human.God is considered truly grand and intensely spirit.In Traditional Haitian Faith, God is one for all -se youn pou nou tout meaning that God is unquestionably impartial. God could not have a single earthly address like Moscow, Nazareth, Chicago, or the Kongo etc.
As we try to build a more just world where women and men can find their reflection in God, we can turnto our ancestors' concepts for moral guidance.In Dahomey, West Africa,God, was called Mawou Lisa.Mawou was the female; Lisa the male.When we ponder history, we must wonder what catastrophic event undermined this gender balanced notion of God. What happened to the universe to allow Lisa to subjugate Mawou and to banish her name from being called upon as God?
Fortunately,there is a reserve of African heritage from which we can offer the world a more moral view of God.Organizations coming to Haiti purporting to teach us about God need to humble themselves and learn a more moral view on the topic.They need to finally honor the memory of our ancestors, particularly whenmany of these organizations once vilified our forebears as slaves. Many evangelists need to come to Haiti to do a little more learning and soul searching. They can begin by singing along "Lisa dole zo"in the old Gedevi-Dahomenlanguage of our fore-parents meaning"God gives life."Following that, they can say Mawou-Mèt meaning God, in her female aspect, is master of the universe.
Numerous people in Haiti have not relinquished the African notion of God as both mother and father, Mawou-Lisa. As we celebrate our heritage, let us reach into our hearts and minds and share with the world our ancestral concept of God.When we embrace God as both Mother and Father, we give voice to our fore- parents' vision and the world gets to hear with equal vigor, Papa Bondye and Bondye Manman mwen.