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Haiti, I’m sorry

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We can join with David Rudder to say “Haiti, I’m sorry,” because on January 12, 2010, a catastrophic earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale hit that country.

Although it is not certain how many persons died, it is estimated that over one hundred thousand persons perished. The earthquake not only caused death and destruction but immense human suffering. An earthquake measuring 7.3 struck our country on November 30, 2007, and looking back we can see how lucky we were. The difference according to scientists is that the tremors in the Eastern Caribbean Islands occurred deep down in the earth, while that in Haiti was closer to the surface.{{more}} The geological explanation is that Haiti is in the middle of a seismic zone between the North American and Caribbean tectonic plates, but then earthquakes can occur anywhere.

Reasons for the Catastrophe?

The explanations that have been offered for the catastrophe are disturbing. One televangelist, Pat Robinson, is convinced that this is punishment for Haiti because the slaves, who revolted against the French in 1791, made a pact with the devil. It is hard to believe that an explanation of this kind is even entertained, much less voiced by a Christian preacher. He even knows the conversation that they had with the devil claiming that they swore to serve him in return for help. The proponents of this theory must be condemned for this nonsense that is propagated against the unfortunate Haitians. How could the actions of suppressed people be misinterpreted in this way? If this theory is to be accepted, how could one explain the action of those persons who fought wars over the ages killing their hapless victims in order to appropriate their lands and possessions? History records wars fought in Europe for as long as one hundred years: namely, the Hundred Years’ War from 1336-1453. Moreso, many of the native Indians in North America were wiped out in the colonizing rampage initiated by Europeans.

Freedom Fighters

Haitians were the only enslaved people who were able to successfully overcome their captors, not only freeing themselves, but also establishing a nation state. It is the most natural thing for any enslaved persons to want to obtain their freedom, but slave owners would not understand this. News of the French Revolution reached the slaves via their masters who talked about it freely in their presence. To them, the poor French ‘slaves’ fought against the rich for their freedom and no wonder that they formed ideas of their own freedom. They revolted in 1791 and made demands for their freedom by successfully staving off attacks by the French. Other slave owning countries, frightened by the actions, placed embargoes on the fledgling nation. France would only recognize the freedom of the slaves if the planters were compensated for the loss of property. The compensation was paid and this was the noose that was placed on the Haitians people during the formative years. The consequences were dire, as this young nation had to use much needed resources to repay France. It was the most serious obstacle to recovery, and it appears that Haiti never recovered from this blow to its financial resources. When the French, Spanish and British colonized the New World, they paid no one for the territories they occupied; instead they enslaved or exterminated the native population.

Haiti has suffered; biblical Job suffered also. Let us not point fingers and allocate blame. We do not always know where, how or when disaster will strike. Haiti needs all the help it can get. Give generously.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: [email protected]

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