Our Readers' Opinions
January 29, 2010
Rethinking Haiti

by Oscar Allen 29.Jan.10

When the Jamaican John Hearne declared that “History is the angel that we Caribbean Jacobs have to wrestle with to receive a blessing; He was recalling the tale about Jacob, who wrestled with God’s angel whole night and would not let go until foreday morning after God blessed him (Genesis 32. 20-30). Yes, we have to fight with the angel of history to access the blessing from our oppressed past. In a similar metaphor, we have to wrestle with God for our oppressed Caribbean future.{{more}}

What is happening in Haiti calls us to both tasks, a struggle with history and a wrestle with God. Let us first of all recognise that some persons and schools of thought present us with history as a homogeneous white product. For example, they celebrate the victorious war for the Independence of the American states from Britain as a great and mighty act – with God on their side. On the other hand, when the African blacks triumphed in Haiti over the Europeans and proclaimed their Independence, they say that God could not have been on their side! They are even teaching us that only the desire could have empowered black African Caribbeans. God could not. And so, such people are using our history against us – to shame, to weaken, to curse us and to put us under their feet. John Hearne is correct. We have to wrestle with the angel of history.

We must not allow the moral descendants of those who stole and oppressed us and our past, to desecrate our dead, to steal and oppress our present and our future. The Chilean poet, Neruda, gazed at the past, saying: “I come to speak for your dead mouths… speak through my speech and through my blood”. Neruda’s words must become ours. Or as Cesaire, poet from Martinique put it. “My lips shall speak for miseries that have no mouths.” As Caribbean people, let us be confident that what Haiti’s oppressed blacks achieved in their/our past, we will achieve together again. It is our duty, as we wrestle with the angel, to take that past out of hostile, hatefilled mouths, let it inhabit us and let us be blessed by it. Walter Benjamin expresses our task in these words: we must “blast a (our) specific era out of the homogeneous course of history.”

Since God blessed Haiti with her revolutionary Independence in 1791 to 1804, we must have faith and confidence today. We are called to wrestle tenaciously with God for a new and beautiful liberation of Haiti to rise from the wreckage, the carnage and the manifest faith of her people. This Haitian Catastrophe is our call to demanding faith. No quiet, pietist faith will suffice for the reign of God to migrate massively in the Caribbean today. The prophetic vision of Michael Ramcharan grasped this theological fact out of our brutal history. He declared: “Out of the depths, we challenged God to be true to the covenant made with us”. As our foreparents did in the past, so we today must reassert and reinsert our covenant God into our present struggle and plea and strategies to make Haiti a new creation. As we rise to take major responsibility in the international effort, so we as God’s Caribbean people, urged on by the spirit of God, must make God primarily responsible to empower us and bless us with a new Haiti, a new Caribbean motherland.

Let us take on ourselves, the characteristics of the earthquake as Phillip Potter urged – its indomitable strength, its removal of vulnerability/structures and its imperative compulsion to rebuild, locking arms resolutely with God, we pray: “Lord God, do your duty in Haiti, in Jesus’ name.” Thanks.