Showing posts with label Cardinal Chibly Langlois. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cardinal Chibly Langlois. Show all posts

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Saving Vodou from Cardinal Langlois and Internalized Afrophobia By Manbo Asogwe Dòwòti Désir

Erasing Memory: The Miseducation of a Cardinal/Saving Vodou from Cardinal Langlois and Internalized Afrophobia
By Manbo Asogwe Dòwòti Désir

The drums of Vodou are used to call down the spirits, connecting congregants with the sacred vibrational energies of the universe. Photo: D. Désir

Roshmee Roshan Lall’s recent article in the Guardian, Voodoo Won’t Save Haiti, Says Cardinal, is so problematic on so many levels the temptation to ignore it is only outweighed by the number of people who have called it to my attention. They expect me to respond and so I shall. Lall’s expertise in international affairs is in business and economics so why the journalist is writing about religion even from a development perspective is my first question? Before I continue, it is imperative that one glaring observation be made: She misspells Vodou or has not made it clear to the Guardian’s editors that the orthographically correct spelling of the religion and discipline is V-O-D-O-U and not Voodoo or voodoo. The latter’s implicit racist and Afrophobic leanings repels a person such as myself, a human rights activist, author and Manbo Asogwe (a female high priest in Haitian Vodou) from reading any further. See:
While Roshmee Lall’s spelling is an eyesore, it is her subject the Cardinal Chibly Langlois and his conservative, dangerous intolerance of the traditions and culture of those he was chosen by the current head of the Roman Catholic papacy, Pope Francis to pastor. Cardinal Langlois’ appointment might be historic but it epitomizes manifestations of Afrophobia gone awry. Cardinal Langlois is an Afrophobe. Afrophobia is the irrational fear of the people, culture and sensibilities of African descendants. And yes, one may be an African descendant and be Afrophobic. Such individuals are amongst the most effective at suppressing their fellow brothers and sisters. They consume the spaces of our imaginations, our cultural agency and capacity for building on what we believe are the best options for making sense of our lives be it spiritually, intellectually, economically or socially. As these social problems sink into our realities, they take a twisted turn towards devouring our geopolitical spaces. Such individuals are the facilitators of injustice, spatial, juridical and policy-related. Is it a wonder that such a man has been appointed Cardinal during the administration of a President (Martelly) who in 2012 would succumb to the demands of the international donor community to alter the constitution of Haïti and outlaw (yet again) the practice of Vodou? His dismissal of this African-based tradition as “magic” reeks of the worst Hollywood pulp fiction of the American Occupation of Haïti 1915-1934.

Making history is Cardinal C. Langlois, is Haïti’s first. His Eminence was appoint in February 2014 by Pope Francis.

Langolis’ accusation of Vodou’s magic would be amusing were they not so misleading. Magic is an art form that is in the business of creating illusion and states of suspended animation, making disbelief what we believe and what we have been made to think impossible, possible. Even as a Vodou priest I would argue the same can be said about most religions. Perhaps this argument can be said of all believers and even non-believers as well, for we chose to believe certain myths, tales, facts, and theories written in books or passed to on to us verbally regardless of their feasibility or evidence towards improbability. Yet, some might call such rationalizing leaps: “faith?” Vodou however is more than just a set of religious tenants but a discipline that has order outside of its sacerdotal attachments, outside of rites and ceremonies. Vodou is a healing centered, eco-theological tradition of liberation that provides a basis for sustaining and transmitting the wisdom and knowledge of our ancestors into sacred rites. It is the foundation of the moral and ethical standards we uphold as African descendants. Vodou’s intellectual and spiritual framework teaches and advocates a self-sufficient, democratic, equalitarian and egalitarian way of living that holds each member of the community accountable for his or her actions.

A Manbo in New York readies to celebrates Agwe, a force of the sea at a regional beach. Photo: D. Désir

Vodou…is the foundation of the moral and ethical standards we uphold as African descendants. Zanj Amba Se Mwen, the Angel Beneath the Heavens Is Me What most people don’t understand is, the ethical and moral foundation of Vodou practitioners is a philosophic or epistemologic disposition (that is, manner in which we gather knowledge) and ontological overview (the nature of existence or being) that is based on our understanding of community. It is found in the simple greeting of “Honor and Respect” (Onè..respè) and konesans, namely a body of knowledge of community life whose foundation is better known in the globe community as Ubuntu. A humanist principle that informs us we are defined by each other; that our lives take on resonance when we are in concert with “us.” Ubuntu or konesans instructs you and me, that we are the summation of those who came before us, that the energy of the departed in the known and unknown world is transformational and is still among us. Time does not erode the relationship we have with our ancestors. That they are we and we are they: the Zanj/the ancient African warriors of Basar/Keepers of Divine Knowledge/the Angel beneath the heavens, is me (and you). Irrespective of our station in life, we come to understand that our humanity like clay takes its form with the meeting of the disparate elements that form our community. Our individual person joined in commune … like water and earth, wind and fire when joined together… all things are possible. These notions make Vodou such a revolutionary construct. This is the “Vodou” that made Haïti possible.

The Cardinal’s ahistorical understanding of Haïtian culture makes one fear not only the pedophilia rampant in the Church but another type of undesirable assault on one’s person and that is on the mind. While the Pope who appointed him may have leanings towards liberation theology, Langlois’ stand is unclear in this matter, his attitude towards the poor and how they came to be so is not evident in the discompassionate nature of his remarks in the July 14 article. Perhaps they are a reflection of his own victimization? The lies of omission taught in schools and erasure of memory that takes place daily through the enforced invisibility of the global African person via any number of tools: the military-prison-industrial complex, the “straightening” and whitening of black hair/skin or continued vilification of African-based traditions that makes zombies of all of us as we walk about the world as African- and/or European- descendants unaware of the evils of historic and contemporary slavery. Slavery is the socio-historic foundation of poverty in the Black Atlantic world that contracts the spaces, sacred and secular, of the global African community.

The Cardinal is praised for his work with the poor especially after an earthquake that was the single worst natural disaster in the Western Hemisphere since the end of the 19th century is not extraordinary. One can only have a passive understanding of eschatology or death if one is immune to it, or secure enough to maintain a measure of distance from pain and suffering. Historically the Church’s perspective towards suffering is a bourgeois conceit, an intellectual and spiritual luxury people living on less than $2 a day, could not afford. African-based religious systems insist we live in a state of balance; that living in destitute and hardship would be the equivalent of sin. Knowledge of this would maintain those of us from historically oppressed communities in a continuous state of rebellion in order to create that space of equilibrium that is justice. The spiritual force of Ogun teaches us that.

Unlikely Pairings, the Marasa of Haïti: Freedom and Poverty
Denial or ignorance of historic slavery’s impact on all of us, victims and beneficiaries of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, makes us unable to understand the roots of poverty and the disparities it causes universally. In Haïti’s particular case, the nature of systemic poverty is a result of “compensations” paid to France, for Haïti’s liberty not the fault of Vodou, Vodouyizan (practitioners of Vodou) or some pathological outcome of our own making. Haïti may have been territorially and politically liberated for 210 years but economically the Republic spent 122 years (1825 to 1947) paying the equivalent of 21 billion dollars to an extortionist French government for “reparations” to French planters who lost their livelihood enslaving African descendants. Sovereignty is as much an economic realization as a political one. As Haïti was freed of “debt” in 1947 – one might easily make the argument that it is at this point the country was in fact “liberated,” making it only 67 years old. Not that much older than most African States that were awarded their independence in the 1960’s and had it safeguarded by UN Declaration of the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. Even then the colonial pacts (Pacte Coloniale – the perverse economic contracts that continue to keep the economies of independent African countries tied to their political imperialist) enables their on-going exploitation. (See:

Let’s look at another republic in the Americas 67 years after its independence (leading up to and after the American Revolution of 1776) the United States, an ally in slavery with the French, was thick in the Transatlantic Slave Trade in 1843 building its profits on the backs of Africans, contesting British opposition to the international slave trade in captive Africans. It was the eradication of the African person’s personal and political space and forced entry into those of French/white American property owners territories and juridical chasms that foreshadowed the economic wealth of so many in the global North. The Vodou congress and ceremony known as Bwa Kayiman (Bois Caïman) attributed to fostering the Haïtian Revolution, broke not only chains of bondage but the process of usurpation, that encroachment and theft of spaces endemic to the North Atlantic by colonizing powers. Because the culmination of a bloody war resulted in reclaiming spaces of freedom for African descendants and other oppressed people, the Haïtian Republic literally paid the price for freedom in blood and gold from which the Cardinal’s homeland was never able to recover. What the College of Cardinals apparently does not teach is the inequity bought by enslavement, indentured servitude, and greed has created the mother of all sins in the AfroAtlantic worldview: poverty.

The Church’s Cardinal Sins
Langolis’ statement, “Vodou won’t save Haïti…” has struck the ire of so many in the community.
“The Church that claims to support the freedoms of everyone is violating the very rights that are enshrined in the, “International Declaration of Human Rights,” stated a former international civil servant and Vodou practitioner Joel Ambroise in response to the Cardinal’s remarks. Perhaps His Eminence thinks Vodouyizan are too busy hiding in shame to do our homework. One of the many virtues of Vodou however is how it teaches us to ground ourselves in history, to remember whom we are, where we came from and to transmit that knowledge to successive generations. History tells us that in 1452 Pope Nicolas V and the papal bull of Dum Diversa allowed the Portuguese King Alfonso V to enslave all non-Christians. This decree was coincident with the arrival of Portuguese to African shores and led to the racialization of the slave trade. Throughout the 15th century the Catholic Church justified the enslavement and colonization of Africans at the hands of Europeans. Inherently, Afrophobic, when one examines the texts of the Abrahamic texts such as the Bible, we realize when they are interpreted literally, we find they are incompatible with the existence of the Black or Sub-Saharan African Self. Ham’s curse more than Cain identifies his “blackness” or physical darkness as a marker of his sin. Then there is the small matter of the Code Noir, the 1685 decree of Jean Colbert and Louis VX that brutalized and dehumanized the African person throughout the Americas. (

The battle for our souls, for that form of supremacy took a turn with the racialization of the slave trades. It turned into a battle for annihilation of the institutional memory of Africans. Belief systems embodied in the religious philosophies of Vodou, Lukumi, Bwiti, and Bantu-Kongo (for example) would in turn be subverted. Notions of Ubuntu, of African community and African humanity as found in the AfroAtlantic would be unhinged. That these spiritual or religious bodies that initiate, and train African descendants (pitit LaAfrik Ginen) to serve the public memory of the collective masses, are discredited is telling. Destruction of the principles they uphold and the respective infrastructures that support them when coupled with the imposition of an eschatologically-based belief system that profits from the suffering of others, and further partnered with an economic system that encourages exploitative behaviours was paradoxically its own “end of the world” for Africans. Only it would not be.

Black spiritual power would continuously contest that of the Church and challenge European concepts of religiosity, memory, and institution building. Vilification of African spiritual traditions knowingly undid the African person, casting the net of Afrophobia well into the 21st century. Sadly our own brother Cardinal Langlois is such an example. As a public institution, the European Church is a public witness to the open and voyeuristic suffering of Africans. Beyond justification of the Code Noir through Biblical canon, the Code Noir forced baptism and conversion to Christianity, leading Africans away from their proper religious traditions. Instead they/we were made to believe a life of suffering would be rewarded with a good death and a place in Heaven at the end of the world. History shows us the colonial French government and the Church had determined the apocalypse of liberated, sovereign Africans would come with economic impunity and a type of social amnesia.
Historically, the Church’s involvement in matters of economic development of formerly colonized countries have made it part of the apparatus of state recidivism, in this instance, the Church is a tool of the State to deny the human right to memory– le droit de mémorie. I not dismiss the many good services the Church may provide but instead wish to call attention to that organization as an instrument of state oppression. The Church is the most effective structure of forgetting history. It creates a lieu de desounen, a place of removing the residue of life, a term I coined for spaces that are designed for erasing memory especially of those enslaved and formerly enslaved peoples. African descendants revisit such a place every Sunday to reinforce the notion that we should accept the status quo and embrace their/our fate. Contradicting the exorcism of memory are Vodou ceremonies as our services are acts of remembrance. The arrival of the Lwa in ceremonies are a reminder of the range of options we have when confronted with adversity or opportunity. To that end, as I shame the Church for its abuses, I shame Vodouyizan that abuse our power and knowledge.

A manifestation of syncretization for some, a form of cognitive dissonance for others, at a Vodou ceremony for the Dahomian Lwa Kouzen Azaka, a spiritual path associated with commerce, community and prosperity, we find an image of the European Saint Gerald prominently displayed. Photo: D. Désir

At the intersection of the Lwa and the Lord, Langlois makes one interesting point: that Vodouyizan should be Vodouyizan, and Christians Christian. Haitian Vodou practitioners must analyze why the latent colonialist habit of going to ceremonies on Saturday nights and running to Church for Sunday morning mass and communion remains in tact. Littering altars with the iconography of saints and images of Jesus that look nothing like those venerating them is beyond a matter of syncretism but the unyielding infrastructure of enslavement and the tenacity of the Code Noir, on our imaginations. Some in the community like Neg Mawon a reknown drummer, cultural activist, radio personality and Ougan Asogwe (male high priest) suggested if Vodouyizan stayed in their/our own camps as Langlois suggests, the local Church would immediately feel the economic impact of their absence. The Stuff of Manbo Jumbo and Hocus Pocus Vodou is not a salvation based belief system so no – it will not save you. It will not save me. Its intention is not to save but to serve and to heal. Going to the Ngangan or Vodou priest is the norm in African-centered societies because it is the job of the priest (often extraordinarily trained herbal doctors) to heal. Unlike the Christian priest, we heal not just with words and ointments of unknown substance but medicinal plants, herbs, roots, barks, leaves…the pharmacy of nature, in other words with the Manbo Jumbo (Big Medicine) that is botany, chemistry, science acquired thorough years of study and centuries of cultural transmission not “hocus pocus.” Vodou provides its adepts that ability to assume control of his/her world. To have a hand in determining one’s circumstances and govern one’s space of spiritual agency, that is what annoys the Church so profoundly. It is that knowledge of how to be self-administering, self-sustaining, self-sufficient, these basic Pan-African constructs that lead to and sustain Black liberation.

Manbo in Haiti
A Manbo in Haiti carries the palm fronds associated with Ayizan Velekete, a Lwa or spiritual force of healing. This photograph was taken on the first anniversary of the 2010 earthquake. Photo: D. Désir

Vodou and other African based traditions of the Americas are critical to the realization of UN Millennium Development Goals and the My World Campaigns focused on the alleviation of poverty. Destroying Vodou and discrediting it is what contributes to Haïti’s and much of the Caribbean and Latin American poverty and condemns us to invisibility. Even on the eve of the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent 2015-2024, we are made to believe that our knowledges and cultures are without value. That the knowledge of our ancestors allowed us to gain freedom, and to sustain ourselves is meaningless. This illusion is the magic of the Church. This is where its teachings remove the will of God from us. Internalized Afrophobia makes us afraid of and disregard our natural selves.

I renew my call for a world stage, a forum already proposed to the Organization of American States, that invites religious leaders of the AfroAtlantic World, academics and governments (Ministers of Justice, those of Culture and Education) to sit together so that we understand collectively the cultural patrimony of the AfroAtlantic World, and comprehend how repressing African-based spiritual traditions and knowledge production diminishes human capacity and development in the region. Perhaps together we can work towards developing resolutions to protect our cultural and human rights, and establish the institutions that will enforce those rights and create policy like a Vodou Anti-Defamation League, and a NATO of sorts: Northern AfroAtlantic Alliance & Treaties Organizations. The truth is, it’s not really the Cardinal I have a problem with, it’s not even the Church per say but instead what happens at the kafous, or the crossroads of where the various institutions and their ideologies meet: the Church and the IMF, the Church and US foreign policy, the Church and racism, the Church and Afrophobia, the Church and Vodou. Intersections are tricky milieus to navigate.
It is the vodoun that lay there – where Papa Lebga (a guardian of meeting points) awaits us at the gate ajar – it may be about to open or might be ready to close. We in Vodou at least know to be mindful of both possibilities at all times, the Catholic Church would be wise to do the same. Though the month of August, in the spirit of Bwa Kayiman all Vodou practitioners are asked to evoke the force of justice that is Ogou by lighting a red candle every day. When Trayvon Martin was killed we stood in solidarity “Hoods Up” with this current attempted assassination of Vodou we call on our brethren, “Red Candles Blaze” Limen balenn nou!


Dòwòti Désir is a Manbo Asogwe in Haïtian Vodou, the Founder of the DDPA Watch Group human rights organization ( and author of Goud kase goud: Conjuring Memory in Spaces of the AfroAtlantic (2014). She may be contacted at

REFERENCES: • Désir, Dòwòti, Wòch kase wòch: Redlining a Holocaust, Memorials and the People of the AfroAtlantic, unpublished manuscript (2013) • Horne, Gerald, The Counter Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America, New York University Press 2014 • Sala-Molins, Louis, Le Code Noir ou le calvaire de Canaan, Quadrige/PUF 1987 • Soja, Edmond W., Seeking Spatial Justice University of Minnesota 2010 And: • Ulysse, Gina Athena, “Defending Vodou in Haiti”, • The Code Noir • English translation of Pacte Coloniale,

Kadinal La Se Yon Gwo Pwoblèm: Yvrose S. Gilles and Dr. Jerry M. Gilles

Kadinal La Se Yon Gwo Pwoblèm: Yvrose S. Gilles and Dr. Jerry M. Gilles


Moun pa tap vrèman bay kòmantè Chibli Langwa sou Vodou enpòtans si se pat pou Pap Fransis ki te vin chwazi l kòm premye Kadinal Ayisyen lan Vatikan. Lan yon atik ki soti 13 Jiyè 2014 lan Revi Gadyen, Kadinal la deklare Vodou pa ofri anyen pase maji kòm solisyon pwoblèm moun ki pa gen dizon lan politik peyi a.
Sa fè Legliz Katolik lontan depi l ap konbat maji pandan l ap fè reklam mirak. Men Sèvitè pa kwè gen espri pou maji, gen lòt pou mirak. Sèvitè kwè gen evennman natirèl epi gen lòt ki pa natirèl. Pou maladi natirèl, se plis ak fèy nou trete sa. Kanta pou maladi ki pa natirèl, se plis sèvis relijye ki fèt pou sa. Pou Sèvitè, ni maji, ni mirak, youn pa natirèl epi yo sanble kou 2 gout dlo. Sa yon moun wè kòm mirak, yon lòt gen dwa pran l pou maji. Kadinal Langwa pa ka kritike maji, pandan gen yon dividal mirak Legliz li a toujou ap andose.
Tou lòt jou la a, Legliz Katolik te cho pou l fè Ayisyen fete 125 ane depi l ap kouri bri se Vyèj Mari ki te fè mirak pou fini ak yon epidemi verèt ki te touye apeprè 100,000 moun lan peyi a. Otorite Legliz la lese konprann se priyè ki monte epi gras Mari desann pou sispann epidemi a. Sanble otorite sa yo pa konprann se vaksen tradisyonèl anpil moun te resevwa, ansanm ak iminite natirèl anpil lòt moun te vin devlope, ki fè maladi a te vin pat ka pwopaje. Sa vle di, kòm Kadinal Langwa ap lite kont sipèstisyon, afè Vyèj Mari te met fwen lan epidemi vèrèt se yon sipèstisyon pou Kadinal la konbat.

San Kadinal la pa konnen, Vodou konn janbe sipèstisyon pou l fè bonjan kontribisyon lan medsin modèn. Se sou zile Ayiti youn nan pi ansyen tèks te pibliye sou inokilasyon, yon kalite vaksen. Se la sou teritwa Ayiti a, Sèvitè te konn pike moun, ak pi ki soti sou po lòt ki gen verèt, dekwa pou yo te ka anpeche maladi a pwopaje (Gazèt Medikal pou Koloni yo -1778). Yo te rele sa achte vèrèt. Kounye a atò, lè doktè sou zile a, tankou doktè Joubè Delamòt tonbe fè sa tou, sa vin ede vaksen pran kòm yon tretman modèn (Wivè 2006). Manke konprann se levennman, Kadinal la fè levennman di Vodou pa ofri okenn solisyon reyèl, kòmkwa moun ta dwe konte plis sou mirak pou tretman maladi.

Nouwològ Bris M. Oud, deja byen montre sèvo moun fonksyone ni ak lojik ni ak sipèstisyon. Se pou sa, nanpwen relijyon ki pa gen sipèstisyon. Si Kadinal Langwa konprann l ap pwòpte relijyon lan retire sipèstisyon, pito li kòmanse fè menaj lan pwòp relijyon pa l. Li ta mèt kòmanse mande tout Katolik ki sèvi ak kwa kòm yon kalite pwoteksyon, pou yo retire sa lan kay yo, lan machin yo, lan meday yo. Vrè verite a, se lavi fè plis sans lè moun ka kenbe bagay yo bay valè depi yo pa kontrarye lòt moun ki valorize diferan sipèstisyon. Si Kadinal la vle mezire longè sipèstisyon kay Katolik, ebyen, li ta met pran plezi gade si Katolik ka wè diferans ant dlo sous ak dlo beni. Yon etid konsa ka pa ede fidèl yo, men sa ka ede Kadinal la kontwole awogans li.

Kadinal la soti pou l avili moun ki suiv tretman tradisyonèl kay hougan. Misye pa konnen dapre Òganizasyon Sante Mondyal (WHO) 80% moun sou latè paka suiv tretman modèn paske sa koute twò chè (Kwol ak Asosye l. Achiv Medsin Entèn, 2007). Menm jan ak Ayisyen, se kay otorite lan diferan kwayans pifò moun sou latè suiv tretman medikal. Se otorite sa yo ki pi byen konn remèd fèy sou planèt la. Dapre Òganizasyon Sante Mondyal, remèd fèy trete twa fwa plis moun pase medsin modèn. Pou ede moun sèvi ak tretman tradisyonèl pi byen toujou, an 1992, Gouvènman Ameriken an ouvè yon sant pou etidye tretman sa yo.

Sa Kadinal la vle fè moun konprann nan, se pa vre. Se pa malere sèl ki suiv tretman kay pastè, kay pè, kay hougan ak manbo lè yo pa ka jwenn doktè oswa lè yo pa jwenn bon rannman kay doktè. Atravè latè, moun pa chita kite maladi devore yo san yo pa degaje yo jwenn konfò kay chèf kwayans yo. Konn kijan pou rekonfòte moun se yon aspè enpòtan lan medsin modèn tou e moun santi yo pi alèz lè tretman an chita lan pwòp mès pa yo. Pou Ayisyen, hougan ak manbo konn fè sa byen. Pito Kadinal la rale kò l, kite moun chèche tretman, chèche konfò pou maladi ki soti pou devore yo. E misye pa bezwen ap lese konprann medsin modèn se yon eritaj Kretyen. Anpil save pase yon tray anba kontraryete Kretyen bay pou moun aplike diferan teyori lasyans pou yo devlope nouvo tretman. Medsin modèn se yon eritaj mondyal. Pèp tout kwayans sou latè gen kontribisyon pa yo ladan n.
Konn katechis, ka domèn Langwa, men lamarin pa metye l. Vodou, li pa konn sa. Men li pale ladan n. Misye deklare moun fè dans Lwa leswa pou yo kache paske yo jennen. Mezanmi, dans Lwa fèt lèswa paske pou Sèvitè, espri yo se revè nou. Se pou sa nou fèb, nou vizib, epi yo menm, yo fò, yo envizib. Kòm nou pi aktiv lajounen, yo pi aktiv leswa. Poutèt sa, leswa se pi bon lè pou n fè sèvis pou yo. Met sou sa, Ayiti se yon peyi cho. Men, fòk bon sans ta di Kadinal la, pito moun bat tanbou, danse apre solèy kouche.
Lè Kadinal Langwa lage chay pwoblèm sosyal sou do Vodou, misye eskive dènye evennman istorik ki te fè Ayiti mal sele pou l rantre lan konpètisyon entènasyonal pou kontwòl byen sou planèt la. Kòm Ayiti te mal sele, se li k foule. Se 300 ane lan esklavaj ki mete Ayiti mal sele. Pandan 3 syèk sa yo, pifò moun sou zile a tap bourike lan mizè pou fè Espay, annapre Lafrans, galonnen lan richès. Alepòk, moun ki te desandan Lafrik pat gen dwa eritye okenn byen lan men manman ak papa yo. Kifè, prèske tout Eritye Ginen ki te fèt lan peyi a te sètoblije fèt pòv. Lafrans li menm, li dirije teritwa a pandan 100 ane konsa, san li pa janm bati yon grenn inivèsite.

Lè w konsidere jan ansyen sitiyasyon rasis lan Amerik la kokobe nou, sa etonan se sou Vodou Kadinal la lonje dwèt kòm gwo pwoblèm sosyal. Se pwoblèm rasis la kifè pou jis jounen jodi a, an jeneral, Eritye Natif Natal lan Amerika la, ansanm ak Eritye Ginen bò isit pi pòv pase moun ki desann Ewòp sèlman. Ayiti se premye kote ekip Kristòf Kolon an pote sistèm rasis modèn nan e se la pwoblèm sa a fè plis dega. Si se pat pwoblèm rasis la, kouman pou Kadinal la esplike kijan fè sa pran Legliz Katolik plis pase 500 ane pou l chwazi yon premye kadinal Afriken-Ayisyen. 

Se vre, rantre lan politik ka mande kouraj, jan Kadinal la di a, men se pa pou otorite Legliz. Legliz Katolik gen 5 syèk eksperyans politik sou teritwa a. Se karyè politik Legliz la kifè Vatikan jwenn tretman moun pa lan men leta. Sa vin pèmèt pè touche dirèkteman lan kès peyi a. Ann Ayiti, ke w vle, ke w pa vle, menm si w pa Katolik, lajan taks ou peye pè. La a menm, nanpwen anyen nouvo lan yon chèf Legliz ki rantre fon lan politik. Sa nòmal pou Ayiti. Nonplis, sa pa mande kouraj pou moun blame Vodou kòm bannann mi pou pwoblèm peyi a. Chay sou do Vodou pa eksite Vatikan, sa pa deranje gwo pouvwa entènasyonal yo, sa pa nui ansyen lidè Ayiti yo, kwak tout jwè wòl pa yo lan kokobe peyi a.

Sa pa ret la, Kadinal Langwa deklare se swa jamè, Ayisyen pa ka Fran Ginen, Fran Katolik. Men, melanj relijyon tankou Mitra ak Kwayans Juif lan relijyon Katolik pa deranje l. Sanble, pou li, lè Kwayans Tradisyonèl Ewopeyen melanje ak Kwayans moun Mwayenn Oryan, se bagay sakre ki pa bezwen detache. Men, li pa ka sipòte kole sere ant Kwayans Afriken ak Krisyanis.

Pawòl Kadinal la se youn, reyalite se 2. Angiz misye akize Vodou, pa pito se padon li mande pou dega Legliz Katolik fè lan peyi a depi sou esklavaj rive lan Rejete. Menm jan Ayisyen konn rele ansyen fanmi Ginen yo pou ba yo enspirasyon, Kadinal Langwa ka pran enspirasyon lan men Pap Jan Pòl II ki te mande padon pou dega Legliz fè atravè latè. Si enspirasyon Pap Jan Pòl II ta monte l, misye ta ka fikse koze pa l sou sa Legliz Katolik fè ann Ayiti, lan pwòp peyi l. Sa ta ede trase chemen tolerans, yon prensip enpòtan pou lapè isiba. 

Pibliye 18 Jiyè, 2014, jou fèt Nèlsonn Mandela
Dyeri M. Jil
Ivwoz S. Jil

The Cardinal is a Big Problem by Yvrose S. Gilles and Dr. Jerry M. Gilles

Chibly Langlois' comments about Vodou would  probably have gone unnoticed had he not been recently selected by Pope Francis to become Haiti's first Roman Catholic Cardinal. In an article published in The Guardian on July 13, 2014, the cardinal is quoted as saying that Vodou offers only magic, but no real solutions to the politically voiceless people of Haiti.

The Catholic Church has a long history of criticizing magic while applauding miracles. Vodouists do not divide spiritual intervention along those same lines. Rather, they believe that events have either natural or supernatural causes. To address the natural cause of disease, they use herbal remedies, while to address supernatural causes, they use incantations. For Vodouist, magic and miracle are equally supernatural. What is miraculous to one person, is simply magical to another. Cardinal Langlois cannot criticize magic while upholding a mountain of miracles professed by the Catholic Church.

Church leaders recently invited the Haitian population to celebrate the 125th anniversary of an alleged miraculous intervention of the Virgin Mary in stopping a smallpox epidemic estimated to have killed some 100,000 people. Church leaders attributed the end of the epidemic to the efficacy of prayers to Mary. They seemed not to understand that the epidemic stopped because many received a traditional inoculation, while others developed their own natural immunity, having acquired a less malignant form of the infection. In other words, the Virgin Mary's intervention was a non-event that could only be regarded as part of the superstitions that the cardinal claims to be combating.

Unbeknownst to the cardinal, Vodouist have ventured beyond superstitions to make significant contributions to modern medicine. One of the earliest publications to report on inoculation (vaccination) came from the island of Haiti. There, Vodouist were addressing the natural cause of disease by introducing into the skins of healthy people the secretions from those sick from smallpox to prevent the infection from spreading (Gazette de Medicine Pour Les Colonies- 1778). This preventive measure was called achte vèrèt. Physicians present on the island, like Joubert de la Motte, helped to popularize the technique and that contributed to the development of modern vaccination (Weaver, 2006). Since concrete medical contributions like this are unknown to the Cardinal, he says that Vodou offers no real solutions as if his church's claims to miracles were more tangible solutions to disease treatment.

As shown by the neurologist, Bruce M. Hood, the human mind is superstitious in its thinking. For this reason, no religion is free of superstition. If Cardinal Langlois wants to purge religion of superstition, he ought to start with his own. He should ask all Catholics to remove crosses from their homes, cars, and necklaces as talismans for protection. The fact is the world is a better place when people can keep their religious articles so long as they do not violate the rights of others to practice their own religions and superstitions. If the Cardinal wants to eradicate superstitions, he can study whether Catholics can distinguish between tap water and holy water. Such an experiment might be useless to his congregation, but it could help tame his arrogance.

The cardinal's disparaging remarks about those who seek medical care from Vodou traditional healers is out of touch with reality. He is apparently unaware of the World Health Organization's publication showing that the cost of modern health care is prohibitive for 80% of the world's population (Kroll and Associates, Archives of Internal Medicine, 2007). Like Haitians, most people on the planet get their medical care from traditional religious healers who have been the cornerstone of herbal medical knowledge. According to the World Health Organization, traditional healers treat three times more daily ailments than modern medicine. To make even better use of these traditional treatments, in 1992, the US National Institute of Health established the Office of Alternative Medicine.

Contrary to what the cardinal assumes, it is not the poor alone who seek the council of pastors, priests, hougans, and manbos when modern medicine is either unavailable or ineffective. Particularly when faced with incurable illness, people all over the world seek comfort from their religious leaders. Comfort-care is itself an important element of modern medicine and is best offered in a culturally meaningful manner. Hougans and manbos offer that. The cardinal needs to step aside and let the people be comforted. He should refrain from giving the impression that modern medicine is a Christian heritage because it is not. It is a world heritage. In fact, scientists have often had to combat Christian resistance to apply scientific theories to therapeutic ends.

The cardinal may be familiar with Catholic catechism, but he is an untrustworthy source for explaining Vodou rituals. He claimed that ceremonies take place at night so that people can practice in hiding. The truth is that the timing of Vodou ceremonies reflects the Haitian belief that the world of spirits is the opposite of ours. Whereas we are mortal and visible, spirits are immortal and invisible. Whereas we are most active during the day, spirits are most active at night making nighttime the best time for religious service. Moreover, it escaped the cardinal that Haiti is in the tropics and Vodou services involve live music and dance, something best done in the cool of night.

Cardinal's Langlois' attempt to scapegoat Vodou as a “big social problem” disregards historical events that placed Haiti at a competitive disadvantage in the international struggle for control of world resources. He bypasses the 300 years when the vast majority of people on the island were forced to produce wealth for Spain, and then France, while creating poverty for themselves. The territory's customs and laws prevented enslaved people from inheriting anything from their parents. This ensured that nearly all people of African descent, on the island, would be born into poverty. France, the last colonial power to rule the area, ruled for nearly 100 years and built not a single university.

Despite this damaging history of racism in the Americas, it is shocking that the cardinal points to Vodou as the big problem. It is past racism that created wealth disparities along ethnic lines. Throughout the Americas, Native people and people of African descent are generally poorer than those of European ancestry. With the landing of Christopher Columbus' crew, modern racial discrimination first took place in Haiti and it is there that it left its most palpable scar. As the first Haitian Catholic Cardinal, surely Langlois must find it problematic that it took more than 500 years for his Church to promote a member of African-Haitian descent to the status of cardinal.

Cardinal Langlois presented his involvement in Haitian politics as though it were something out of the ordinary. Catholic Church leaders have a 500 year history of political involvement everywhere on the island. This longstanding history enabled the Church to enjoy preferential treatment, securing salaries for its priests from the Haitian state's coffers. The cardinal's immersion in politics is not the blazing of a new path. It is a continuation of the status quo. Blaming the victim also helps to preserve the status quo. It does not risk the wrath of the Vatican, of powerful foreign governments, nor of powerful Haitian leaders who have all played a part in impoverishing the people.

Cardinal Langlois declared that Haitians cannot be Catholics while having African religious beliefs. But it doesn't seem to bother him that his own Catholicism is a mixture of such religions as Mithra and Judaism. The merger of traditional European beliefs with Middle Eastern beliefs is apparently sacred in his mind and need not be pulled apart. But somehow the fusion of Christianity with African beliefs is utterly disturbing to him.
The cardinal's misguided statements show that he is out of touch with reality. Rather than blame Vodou, Cardinal Langlois should apologize for the harmful policies the Church sanctioned in the past. Just as Haitians cite their Ancestral Lwas to justify their present actions, Cardinal Langlois can reference Pope John Paul II who apologized for many ills the Church committed worldwide. Inspired by the pope, the cardinal can focus his own apology on the Church's detrimental actions in Haiti, and pave the way for more religious tolerance in the future.

Published on July 18, 2014, on Nelson Mandela's birthday
Jerry M. Gilles
Yvrose S. Gilles