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The hand of God - Haitians call quake the Lord's message

Published:Monday | January 18, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Deeply religious Haitians see the hand of God in the destruction of biblical proportions visited on their benighted country.

The quake, religious leaders said yesterday, is evidence that He wants change.

Exactly what change He wants depends on the faith: Some Christians say it's a sign that Haitians must deepen their faith, while some Voodoo followers see God's judgement on corruption among the country's mostly light-skinned elite.

And then there's American Evangelist Pat Robertson, who said last Wednesday that Haiti had been cursed by a pact its slave founders made with the devil two centuries ago to overthrow their French rulers and become the world's first black republic.

The White House called his remarks "stupid".

As desperate believers met to pray yesterday across the shattered capital, the Reverend Eric Toussaint told a congregation gathered outside the ruined cathedral that the earthquake "is a sign from God, saying that we must recognise His power".

Haitians, he said, "Need to reinvent themselves to find a new path to God."

Punishment for corrupt leaders

Some followers of Voodoo, practised alongside Roman Catholicism by the vast majority of Haitians, said the devastation of key symbols of power was punishment for corrupt leaders who have allowed the mostly light-skinned elite to enrich themselves while the black majority suffered.

"If all of a sudden, in 15 seconds, 20 seconds, all the physical representations of corruption are destroyed, it gives you pause for thought," said Richard Morse, a renowned Haitian-American musician whose mother was a singer and revered Voodoo priestess.

"The Justice Ministry: down. The National Palace: down. The United Nations headquarters: down."

Unharmed by the quake was the famed bronze statue, 'Le Maron Inconnu' - 'the Unknown Escaped Slave' - noted Morse, who owns the Oloffson Hotel featured in Graham Greene's novel The Comedians.