FaithWorld

from Photographers' Blog:

Family, soccer and God

by Rickey Rogers

It was around the time that Brazil was beginning construction projects to host the 2014 World Cup four years ago, that a massive earthquake devastated Haiti's capital. The quake killed over 200,000 people and left few Haitians unaffected in some way. That disaster, coupled with the attraction of a World Cup country and the fact that Brazilians were already familiar to Haitians as UN peacekeepers patrolling their streets, initiated a new route south for migrants trying to escape the difficult situation. That route starts in Haiti passing overland to the Dominican Republic, by plane to Ecuador or Peru, and overland to the Peru-Brazil border where even today there are hundreds of Haitians awaiting visas.

Photographer Bruno Kelly was on an assignment to photograph the dozen or so Haitians working at the Arena Amazonia stadium in Brazil's Amazonian capital, Manaus, when he met immigrant Milice Norassaint. Milice's story touched Bruno, and they became friends as Bruno photographed him at work and in his daily life. Bruno asked Milice for his wife's phone back in Haiti, and Bruno gave it to colleague Marie Arago in Port-au-Prince.

What resulted is a story about a family divided by need, but united through their faith.

MILICE’S STORY

Manaus, Brazil

By Bruno Kelly

Haitian migrant Milice Norassaint may be 41, but he has the strength of a 20-year-old. His story reflects the saga of many who left Haiti after 2010, when the capital was struck by a devastating earthquake, and began new lives in Brazil’s Amazonian capital, Manaus.

I first met Milice while he was doing his job as a construction worker in the Arena Amazonia soccer stadium, which is being built to host matches for the 2014 World Cup. I knew nothing about his life, but it was soon after that first encounter that I realized there was a lot going on behind his shy look and modest smile, though he rarely spoke. I soon learned how much of a fighter he really is.

from Photographers' Blog:

Voodoo alive and well

Souvenance, Haiti

By Marie Arago

There is much beauty in Haiti. There are mountains, the countryside, the sea and beaches, but what I find most beautiful is the culture of this country. There are many elements that contribute to Haiti's rich culture and Voodoo (also spelled Vodou and Voudou) is definitely one of them.

This past week I spent three days documenting the annual Voodoo festival at Souvenance, a small village outside of Gonaives. Souvenance was formed by escaped and freed slaves from Dahomey (present day Benin) about two hundred years ago. During this week at Souvenance all of the Rada Iwa, or Voodoo spirits of Dahomey origin, are honored through different ceremonies, song and dance.

The first day begins with a ceremony that leads into a dance for the lwa, or spirit, named Legba. The dancing is led by three drums and the song lyrics are a mix of the Kreyol and Dahomey languages. These songs and dances have been passed on for generations and, judging by all of the children who were singing along, the traditions are not in danger of being lost.

Christmas of misery for many in calamity-hit Haiti

haiti (Photo: A girl with a Christmas hat in a makeshift camp in Port-au-Prince January 24, 2010/Shannon Stapleton)

Maritza Monfort is singing along to a Christmas carol in Creole on the radio, but the Haitian mother of two is struggling to lift her spirits.  “I sing to ease my pain. If I think too much, I’ll die,” said Monfort, 38, one of over a million Haitians made homeless by a January earthquake that plunged the poor, French-speaking Caribbean nation into the most calamitous year of its history.

With a raging cholera epidemic and election turmoil heaping more death and hardship on top of the quake devastation, Haitians are facing an exceptionally bleak Christmas and New Year marked by the prospect of more suffering and uncertainty.

The January 12 earthquake killed more than a quarter of a million people and snuffed out what had been some encouraging signs of revival in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest economy. Following hard on the quake’s heels like an apocalyptic horseman, the cholera epidemic has killed more than 2,500 Haitians since mid-October and is still claiming victims daily, confronting the United Nations-led international community with one of its toughest ever humanitarian assistance tasks.

Haiti voodoo leader urges halt to cholera lynchings of priests

voodoo 1 (Photo: A voodoo priest walks around a believer in a trance during a ritual at a voodoo festival July 24, 2010/Eduardo Munoz)

The head of Haiti’s voodoo religion has appealed to authorities  to halt the bloody lynchings of voodoo priests by people who blame them for causing the Caribbean country’s deadly cholera epidemic. Since the epidemic started in mid-October, at least 45 male and female voodoo priests, known respectively as “houngan” and “manbo,” have been killed. Many of the victims were hacked to death and mutilated by machetes, Max Beauvoir, the “Ati” or supreme leader of Haitian voodoo, told Reuters.

“They are being blamed for using voodoo to contaminate people with cholera,” Beauvoir said on Thursday. The killers accused voodoo priests of spreading cholera by scattering powder or casting “spells” and complained that local police and government officials were not doing enough to halt the lynchings and punish the killers. Voodoo is recognized and protected by the constitution as one of Haiti’s main religions.

“My call is to the authorities so they can assume their responsibilities,” said Beauvoir, who fears more attacks against voodoo devotees. Most of the lynchings occurred in the southwest of Haiti but also in the center and the north.

Chanting Haitian voodoo celebrants honor quake dead

haiti refugees

Tents for earthquake survivors in the national stadium in Port-au-Prince March 21, 2010/Eduardo Munoz

Dressed in white, shaking decorated gourd rattles and singing praises to “Olorum Papa” (God the Father), several hundred practitioners of Haiti’s voodoo religion held a public ceremony on Sunday to honor those killed in the January 12 earthquake.

While several Christian ceremonies have been held to mourn the hundreds of thousands of quake dead, this was the first national commemoration by Haiti’s voodoo religion, which has had to defend itself against accusations by some Evangelical preachers that it somehow caused the deadly natural disaster.

from Photographers' Blog:

The Devil on the loose in Haiti

The incessant drone of the motorcycle under me becomes distant as my mind creates images from the words of an elderly woman in the camp I just visited. “The Devil is on the loose in Haiti. He turns into a dog, a pig or a hen, to move unnoticed in the camps and devour life. Last night he appeared as a dog and took the life of a child.” In the camp everyone knows and speaks of the death, and the strange disappearance of the boy’s mother.

Every form that I have ever imagined devilish beings to take are banished from my mind when this Devil appears. He has become a 7-day diarrhea that “devoured” the life of the child. Is it easier to explain death in the hands of a demon instead of looking around and thinking that it might have been the lack of water, hygiene and food that snatched the life?

A Haitian man takes a bath on a destroyed street at Port-au-Prince February 14, 2010. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

The destitution of the Haitian people hits me everywhere I turn. In none of the camps I visited is there a face that doesn’t show the mark of poverty. “The city looks like it was bombed,” says the security expert who accompanies me daily. There is no building, house or street that doesn’t show the effects of nature’s strength. They really were bombed - bombarded by political violence, illiteracy, unemployment, AIDS and extreme poverty. The quake did nothing more than expose to the world the indigence of an entire nation.

U.S. missionary in Haiti says trusts God to free her

A Haitian judge made no decision at a hearing on Monday whether to free or prosecute 10 U.S. missionaries accused of kidnapping children, and their leader said she trusted in God they would be cleared and released.

The missionaries, most of whom belong to an Idaho-based Baptist church, were arrested last month trying to take 33 Haitian children across the border to the Dominican Republic 17 days after a magnitude 7 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people in the impoverished Caribbean nation.

HAITI

They were charged last week with child abduction and criminal association.

“I am trusting God to reveal all truth and that we will be released and exonerated of charges, and we are just waiting for the Haitian process, legal process, to complete,” the group’s leader, Laura Silsby, said after Monday’s hearing.

Irish clergy abuse victims torn between Dublin monument and Haiti aid

ryanreport

The Ryan report into child abuse, 20 May 2009/Cathal McNaughton

One of the healing measures suggested when Ireland’s Catholic clerical sex scandals shocked the country last year was a proposal to erect a monument in Dublin to all the youths abused for decades at schools and orphanages run by religious orders that looked the other way.  The idea, proposed by the government’s Ryan report last May, won so much support that half a million euros were earmarked for the project. The government appointed a group to consider what the Irish Times called “the most difficult public art commission in the history of the state.”

It’s just become even more difficult because one group of clerical abuse victims has now said the funds should instead be donated to victims of the Haiti earthquake. The gesture would genuinely mean more to victims of clerical abuse than a piece of stone on O’Connell Street,” the victims’ group Right of Place said last week at a meeting with Prime Minister Brian Cowen. O’Connell Street is Dublin’s main thoroughfare, an ideal place for any memorial.

Others disagree.

Christine Buckley, who works at the Aislinn Centre to support victims, said she recognised the deep suffering of Haitian people. But Ireland, whose government and citizens have already contributed millions in aid to Haiti, should still be able to afford just over 3 euros per each child affected by abuse, she said.

Haiti quake raises fears of child-eating spirits

haiti kids

Children in a homelss camp in Port-au-Prince, 27 Jan 2010/Eduardo Munoz

The earthquake that shattered Haiti has unleashed fears that child-eating spirits, mythological figures entrenched in Haitian culture, are prowling homeless camps in search of young prey.

The ‘loup-garou,’ which means ‘wolf man,’ is similar to werewolf legends in other parts of the world, but in Haitian folklore it is a person who is possessed by a spirit and can turn into a beast or even a dog, cat, chicken, snake or another animal to suck the blood of babies and young children.

Haitians fear loups-garous in the best of times and even more since a powerful earthquake wrecked the capital of Port-au-Prince two weeks ago, killing as many as 200,000 people and forcing hundreds of thousands more to sleep outside in vast camps or on the streets.

VIDEO: Rescuers recover body of Haiti archbishop killed in quake

archbishop

A Mexican rescuer wipes tears as he stands guard with team members beside body of Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot recovered from the ruins of Port-au-Prince cathedral on 19 Jan 2010/Wolfgang Rattay

A Mexican rescue team has recovered the lifeless body of the Roman Catholic Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot of Port-au-Prince from the rubble of his residence a week after the massive earthquake that devastated Haiti. Here’s the Reuters video report:

We ran several pictures of the city’s ruined cathedral here.

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