By Donnelly McCleland

On Sunday, 3 March, the Haitian government declared a 72-hour state of emergency and night curfew after gangs stormed the country’s two biggest jails and freed more than 3,800 inmates. This is the latest in Haiti’s descent into anarchy. Before the prison break, gangs already controlled around 80% of the capital, Port-au-Prince. The previous week saw gangs burning down police stations, attacking the main airport, and threatening to seize the national palace. Observers see little reason for optimism over Haiti’s immediate future. No elections have been held in Haiti in the past seven years, and almost three years ago, the unelected president, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated. In addition, it’s been more than a year since the last elected officials left office. While the most recent crisis can be traced back to the president’s assassination in 2021, the roots of Haiti’s chaos go far deeper. These include its slavery and colonial past, the spiritual impact of the practice of vodou, and the generational economic impact of the vast “reparations” Haiti was forced to pay to France after independence in 1804, which equates to approximately $20 billion in current monetary terms. Years of occupation under the control of American marines was followed by the 29-year dictatorial father-son rule of François and Jean-Claude Duvalier (known as “Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc”). The Caribbean nation has also endured frequent natural disasters, including hurricanes and the horrific earthquakes of 2010 and 2021. Professor Matthew Smith, a historian of Haiti, described Haiti’s bleak past in The Guardian’s First Edition: “You could see the country’s history as a series of crises with brief periods of hope and peace.” He said, though, that “the [current] situation is unprecedented in Haiti’s history”.

Tragically, despite Haiti having been one of the world’s most active mission fields for American evangelicals ­– an estimated 1,700 career missionaries were serving in Haiti (one for every 7,000 people) in 2020 (according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity) – there has been little evident societal ‘fruit’ from all these spiritual endeavours. According to the Joshua Project, 94.8% of Haitians profess to be Christian, with 17.53% evangelical. Catholicism was the dominant religion in Haiti, listed in the constitution as its official state religion until 1987. However, according to an article in Christianity Today, between a quarter and half of Haitians today are Protestant. Since the rapid deterioration of law and order in 2021, with deaths, kidnappings, and destruction of property, many mission and Christian organisations, along with other non-governmental groups, withdrew their people from Haiti. In desperation, some church communities have resorted to armed protest. In August 2023, church members, armed with clubs and machetes, marched in their neighbourhood, denouncing the presence of gangs, which resulted in the deaths of 10 church members and many more injuries.

While there are many factors and role-players that have contributed to Haiti’s current implosion, the Church needs to address those aspects for which it is responsible. Simple compassion and humility demand that we, as Christians, not simply look away and lay all blame solely at others’ feet. All Christians must evaluate their work, as Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 so that for which we have laboured when tested with fire, will survive. We know we serve a God of compassion and that, despite Haiti’s dismal prospects for peace, He can rescue and redeem. Haitian believers need steadfast intercessors to encourage them, as it says in Isaiah 35:3-4, to “Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, He will come with vengeance; with divine retribution He will come to save you.”

Please join us in prayer for the following:

  • For the Lord to extend His mighty hand and halt Haiti’s rapid descent into anarchy
  • For righteous leaders to represent Christ in both speech and deed
  • For believers to be strengthened and encouraged, looking to Christ to fight this battle for them