(12th Station from Stations of the Cross from Latin America 1492 -1992
By Adolfo PÃ©rez Esquivel of Argentina)
HAITI AND THE CROSS OF A CRUCIFIED PEOPLE
Within a matter of hours after a powerful earthquake devastated Haiti, Pat Robertson declared during his 700 Club broadcast that this colossal tragedy was payback for a "pact with the Devil" that Haitian slaves made to gain freedom over 200 years ago. "Something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about it" explained the tele-evangelist to his many listeners, "and they got together and swore a pact with the Devil. They said, "We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French' True story. And the Devil said, "OK, it's a deal', but ever since they have been cursed by one thing after another".
This, of course, is an utterly barbaric notion, one that stinks to high heaven. I feel dirty by even having to repeat it in order to refute it. Suffice it to say that the Devil never liberated anyone; that the Haitian Revolution under the brilliant leadership of Toussaint L'Ouverture was, as his name literally reveals, "the awakening of all saints"; and that the Haitian people far from being cursed are, like the Son of God was, really crucified. If anyone has made a pact with Mephisto it is the crucifier, not the crucified.
As the poorest population in the Western Hemisphere, Haitians were a crucified people long before the earthquake hit. Without that heavy cross of extreme poverty, the added one of a severe earthquake would not nearly have consumed so many lives and caused such catastrophic damage. That makes this enormous tragedy not only a natural disaster, but also a social sin, one conditioned by our failure to get into the full reality of this catastrophe. The nonstop TV coverage with its repeated video clips and sanitized reports simply does not cut it. After the novelty wears off and Haiti again drops into oblivion (as South Asia after the tsumani and New Orleans after Katrina have), it will be business as usual and cover-ups as always.
Therein lies a grave social problem, one that the theologian Jon Sobrino identifies as our collective lack of a "will to truth" in the face of prophetic and profound suffering. In his incisive book, Where is God? Earthquakes, Terrorism, Barbarity and Hope, Sobrino explains that "unless we somehow become enfleshed in the reality of the earthquake and in what it produces: death and damage, destruction and desolation, responsibility for things done and not done, the demand for solidarity and the abomination of corruption, and incidentally also the good that has come out of the earthquake, if we close our eyes and soothe our conscience, and life goes on as before, then the earthquake simply will not have existed for us; it will never have been "real" unless we somehow live in the reality of the earthquake, (otherwise) we are turning away from the cross of crucified peoples".
Because of what happened to Haiti, life must not go on as before for us. We need to begin living in the reality of crucified peoples. Our compassion cannot and must not be limited to charity. There must be a renewed demand for social justice and morally defensible priorities. We cannot profusely give our national treasure to an unending war on the other side of the world; only throw crumbs at a crucified people at our doorstep; utterly ignore the wretched condition of another crucified people in the Holy Land; and still pretend to be a nation under God. God was in this earthquake alongside his impoverished and crucified people. How will we bless him now?
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