Christianity and Vodou
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Christian and Vodou conflicts
The revolutionary Jean-Jacques Dessalines presumptively proclaimed himself head of the church in Haiti after the Haitian Revolution. He set forward to limit the jurisdiction of priests and to appoint men to vacant positions in local church communities. He himself had caused the assassination of a large number of the missionaries by failing to stop slaughter of the white colonists. This caused a schism between the Haitian state and Rome, resulting in Rome's declining to send priests into the country. There were no priests to provide guidelines for the newly established Haitian state. As a consequence, the principles of Vodou and Catholicism were merged and Catholicism (with its Vodou influences) was made the state's official religion under the leadership of Henri Christophe.
Another cause of the syncretic connection between Catholicism and Vodou was the state's ordination of Haitian men to the priesthood – a step that the Vatican would not recognize as legitimate. However, mixture of both religions shaped the way of how Haitians practice their ritual. The Haitians were going to church, but they continued to adhere to Vodou, using the rituals of the church to mask the practices of their native traditions.
There have been several killings in the past of Christian pastors, and some Christians blame those murders on the influence of Vodou. There have also been several murders of Vodou Priests/Priestesses, most recently after the earthquake. Christians were also said to have been keeping food aid for themselves and stopping it from reaching Vodou communities. In Haiti, some Christians consider Vodou a form of devil worship. In spite of this criticism by some Haitian Christians, many practitioners of Haitian Vodou continue to self-identify as Roman Catholic, even to the point of incorporating the Lord's Prayer and the Hail Mary into their services for the Lwa. These people see no contradiction between the two faiths and, in fact, view it as enriching their own faith, such people refer to themselves as good Christians.
Haiti has large percentages of Vodou believers. Catholicism has influenced Vodou in Haiti and vice versa. In other words, Vodou has borrowed sort of 'far-reaching speculation' from Roman Catholicism. The difference between Vodou and Roman Catholicism is that Roman Catholicism is more visible and official; However, Vodou was unofficial and secretive . Vodou is today an official religion in Haiti . Even though there are great a number of Haitian who claim Christian status, many Haitians practice Vodou ritual.
Many Christians accept Vodou as part of the country's culture. They have no problem because half of the people that are Christian are very aware that the other half practice vodou. However there are the few Christians who disagree with the idea of Vodou, for most Evangelicals believe that Vodou is not compatible with Christianity . Even though many people in Haiti do practice Vodou, when asked the question, "what religion are you?" they would respond that they are Roman Catholics or Evangelicals.
With this in mind, the people in Haiti can practice what they choose to practice. However, the most common religions are Vodou and Christianity. The Catholic Church and the clergy play a significant role in teaching, another issue which affects the relationship between the two religions.
Vodou is taken seriously, and is not "black magic" (or at least not primarily, see bokor). Many observances are shared between the religions; for instance it is not abnormal for Vodou funerary ceremonies to be performed and to be followed by a Roman Catholic ceremony presided by a priest. Many Haitians celebrate Christian holidays alongside traditional Vodou holidays.
The Church position
The Church has put pressure upon the government to outlaw and disband Voodoo. In 1896, 1913, and again in 1941 the church led its anti-superstitious campaigns to fight against Voodooism. During the campaigns, hundreds of Ounfos and ritual paraphernalia were destroyed and burned. In addition to the more common French and British the missionaries, Canadian missionaries began to move into Haiti in 1942. A Jesuit seminary was also opened in 1948. Up to this time, the church remains a major political power; this can cause major problems in country and has greatly limited its pastoral work. In the past decade the Catholic Church has taken a much more liberal stand towards Vodou, even including some minor Vodou elements in the Haitian mass.
- The Faces of the Gods 42-43
- McAlister, Elizabeth A, Rara! Vodou, power, and performance in Haiti and its diaspora : Berkeley University of California Press.
- Fahlbusch, Erwin (1999). The Encyclopedia of Christianity: Volume 2. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 496.