Throughout the world war is normalized as an art, well demonstrated by Sun Tzu. In fact, wars are said to have different campaigns of which is the battle of “hearts and minds.” The same applied to the war in Haiti that officially started in 1791 involving the French and the Haitian people. The battle of hearts and minds of said war continued onto the present. In the front line, the French was replaced by Haitian Catholics although the Catholic hierarchy has, in recent years, taken steps to end this war.
In Haiti the war of hearts and minds resulted and persisted because an official policy was established during the war of independence to spare the life of priests, doctors, and teachers. The Catholic priests, whose lives were spared. persisted the battle of hearts and minds from 1806 after the assassination of Jn Jacques Dessalines. In 1860 the battle was formalized with "The Concordat of 1860" that claimed control over the Haitian educational system. Thus, all textbooks were based on Catholic doctrine resulting in a very large percentage of the Haitian population represented as Catholics to this day. Most social science statistics recognize that spirituality in Haiti is almost 100% Vodou and 80% Catholic. We clarify here that 85% of Haitians would not publicly admit their relationship with the Vodou tradition for fear of social unintented consequences.
Throughout history, Catholic doctrine has been revised where many issues have been reexamined and reconsidered. The revisions and reconsiderations usually remain unknown to the general public because there is nothing visible that can point to them. Of such revisions came the recognition of Vodou as a legitimate spiritual community. The word “religion” may have been used in the recognition but that does not satisfy the situation in Haiti where the Vodou practitioners are most often Catholic as we can see in the story of Marie Laveau who was a devout Catholic and a Vodou priestess in New Orleans. Furthermore the relationship between Christianity and Vodou dates back to historical periods that predate the establishment of Catholicism.
The relationship between Vodou and Catholic has been mischaracterized by the misunderstanding stated as syncretism whereas Vodou practitioners are adopting Catholicism. This misunderstanding fueled the battle of hearts and minds ongoing since 1806. Historically speaking, Christians and Hebrews existed before the Catholics who adopted those traditions. Vodou may be said to come from the direct descendants of those Hebrews and Christians.
According to Saint Augustine, Christians existed thousands of years before Catholic Universal was conceived. It is thus no accident that Vodou entities have a very direct relationship with Catholic Saints. For example, the Vodou entity Legba is represented by Saint Peter in the Catholic faith symbolized with a golden key. Legba in Vodou is represented by a sacred geometry symbol known in Creole as vệvệ. The Vodou entity and the Catholic saint play the same role: they open the gate to an astral place that the Catholic initially polarized with the heaven and hell concept. Vodou entities are not represented by Vodou imagery, they are usually portrayed with Catholic imagery representing the same esoteric concepts as seen with Saint Peter and Legba.
The revisions and reconsiderations of Catholic doctrine were applied by the Catholic hierarchy in mandating a congregation that respects and cooperates with the Vodou tradition. This congregation in Haiti is: Sœurs Redemptrices de Nazareth.
Sœurs Redemptrices de Nazareth welcomes all and respects everyone’s right and spiritual preferences. It is a congregation where the traditional Haitian Catholic meets with closet and open Vodou adherents without historical religious prejudice. This is a first step toward ending the battle of hearts and minds with direct application of peace through respect and understanding without an institutional exigence to "get alone" as we see in deploying agendas such as "Diversity." Sœurs Redemptrices de Nazareth achieves this goal naturally by people following their own will; such is true peace and such is the spiritual implementation of the institution. The congregation is unifying hearts and minds that were divided per modus operandi of the battle of hearts and minds.
Sœurs Redemptrices de Nazareth was conceived and presided by the eminent Sister Dona P. Belizaire who wrote the charter for the congregation which was approved by The archbishop Mgr. Ligonde, F. M. W. in 1989. Sister Dona P. Belizaire began implementing this congregation with the philosophical understanding of “serving God through the most afflicted.”
In her wisdom the most afflicted in Haiti are the abandoned children which are exposed to atrocities beyond the scope herein. Thus, she designed an educational program for the poor and the peasantry which she implements in three steps. In the context of peace, these afflicted children are first offered a chance for inner peace which translates into social peace. Ironically, this is the same strategy that was the essence of the aforementioned Concordat which had a monopoly on the Haitian education system through text books. A system that produces one of the most divided society on the planet.
In establishing the three steps of her educational program, sister Dona goes across Haiti and directly interacts with the peasantry. She does so by identifying those who have resources and the will to implement services. By agreement, she provides the resources and the mechanisms to run the programs. The peasantry is the main source of abandoned children and Sister Dona deals with the cause in peasant communities as well as the effect which is in the urban areas where the abandoned children are concentrated all inclusive in the three step process.
The first step is to provide a hot meal for children to whom this meal is a luxury. The hot meal program is referred to as “canteen.” These services attract needed children who may or may not be homeless. In the countryside they are unlikely homeless, but in the urban areas they are, more often than not, homeless.
The second step is to provide alphabetization services and/or vocational services. This step is usually feasible in the countryside where the child has basic shelter. In the urban areas this step is more difficult. Thus the second step in the urban area is to provide shelter followed by alphabetization and or vocational training.
The third step of Sister Dona’s program is education provided to children whose parents cannot pay, or the area has no school. This step requires that the child has shelter and eats everyday. Thus, the school in Kenskoff is open to abandoned children as well as children whose parents are known. Those that are not abandoned children receive nutrition and formal education with those that are abandoned and residing on the Kenskoff campus as well as the Jacmel and Port-de-Paix campuses that are currently closed.
Many Haitians consider, and support, Sœurs Redemptrices de Nazareth as a gesture of peace by the Catholic hierarchy, and hope that this autonomous institution can become effective in that role of peacemaker. Soeurs Redemptrices de Nazareth is 90% funded by the Haitian diaspora through the creative approach of Sister Dona Pierre Belizaire who collects street donations; the other 10% comes from the good will of individual donors.
Sister Dona’s approach is very successful and popular in countryside communities throughout Haiti. We know that the popularity is translated as political power in Haiti’s political sector which demonstrates poor philosophical understanding of the gift that is Soeurs Redemptrices de Nazareth and its role in the battle for hearts and minds.
You can view the damages to the facilities at the headquarters of Soeurs Redemptrices de Nazareth as well as our effort to make the repairs in this virtual tour.