Haiti expert ties present-day horror show to history of poverty, theft, religious confusion

Haiti expert ties present-day horror show to history of poverty, theft, religious confusion

Haiti expert ties present-day horror show to history of poverty, theft, religious confusion

As the border-challenged United States eyes fleeing Haitians and a potential impact here, there may be a tendency from some to say you reap what you sow.

There’s a history of U.S. intervention in the Caribbean, and in Haiti the U.S. was known to support late dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier.

U.S. relationships with such countries were especially prevalent in the Cold War years, Dr. A.J. Nolte, Regent University associate professor, said on Washington Watch Wednesday.

But digging deeper, the current climate is not all about the Cold War relationships as Haiti implodes in an avalanche of economic, social and civil unrest, Nolte told show host Tony Perkins.

“There are so many different causal factors that are causing the situation in Haiti. U.S. intervention is probably one of them, but I will say this, I think it has been in a lot of the popular media has been somewhat exaggerated,” Nolte said.

Haitians are plagued by challenges such as poverty, natural disasters, political crisis and insecurity. Half the nation lived in poverty even before the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise led to a power vacuum, according to MigrationPolicy.org, a nonpartisan think tank that seeks to improve immigration policies through research and analysis.

Luis Abinader, president of Dominican Republic, across Haiti’s eastern border, warned last year Haiti was experiencing a “low-intensity civil war.”

Comparing two next-door neighbors

Dominican Republic has been one of the fastest-growing economies in its region, according to The World Bank.

Nolte studied the two neighbors. He found several similarities – both are former dictatorships, both allied with the U.S. against the Soviet Union – before he found a couple of things he believes contribute to Haiti being set a part in a bad way.

At least one of those dictators – the D.R.’s – had the foresight to encourage free markets at some level whereas, in Haiti, the Duvaliers – a son following a father – “just stole everything that wasn’t nailed down,” Nolte said.

Another important difference is the absence of a faith foundation.

Nolte, Dr. A.J. (Regent Univ) Nolte

“I want to say probably yes, and I want to give a slight caveat to that. It’s really hard to get good numbers on things like how many people are voodoo practitioners in Haiti because different studies claim different numbers.

“In Haiti, these practices that are largely drawn out of West African and Indigenous Caribbean spirituality are kind of mixed in with Christianity. So, it's all sort of mixed together in what we call Syncretism,” Nolte said.

Historically, a society benefits from a faith foundation.

“Religious organizations, they tend to do a lot of stuff. They combat poverty. They help bring people together. Christianity in particular tends to be really good for things like literacy because Christians are teaching people obviously to read the Bible,” Nolte said.

But in Haiti, a mix of indigenous spirituality with elements of Roman Catholicism haven’t produced similar results, Nolte said.

A ‘mafia’ relationship with the gods

“The relationship with the gods is more like the equivalent of a mafia relationship where it's patron-client. It's not like a personal relationship based on mutual love and even in fact having certain rights as bears in the image of God,” Nolte said.

That becomes problematic in many ways, one of them economic confidence.

“That could be leading to some of the lack of social trust for those outside of the immediate circle that we see in Haiti and low social trust is definitely something that is inhibiting economic growth and economic development,” Nolte said.

Christian ideals play a key role in the rule of law, Nolte said.

“That’s borne out by social scientific data. Strong churches and high levels of religiosity, particularly Christianity, tend to correlate with low levels of corruption. You look at Haiti and say it's majority Christian, but a lot of that Christianity, there are these other syncretic elements there that are there. That might be impeding where normally we would see Christianity help with rule of law. We’re not seeing that.”