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Some thoughts on Haiti

2010 January 27

This post is basically to list a number of articles about Haiti that I’m reading.  This is by no means an attempt to give a fully balanced response!  The earthquake is a terrible disaster and our church, like many others, has been good in responding with prayer and financial help (in our case, via Tearfund).

Last week I read this quote in The Week magazine.

“This is not a natural-disaster story,” said David Brooks in The New York Times. “This is a poverty story.” In October 1989, another quake of magnitude 7.0 hit the densely populated but wealthy Bay Area in Northern California; only 63 people died.

Here’s a few articles that explore this:

“The fault line in Haiti runs straight to France” explores some of the historical problems that left Haiti in such poverty.  I’m not interested in bashing the French, but, as the author states, “in few countries is there a more direct link between the sins of the past and the horrors of the present.”

“Why Tough Love is needed” explores the cultural problems in Haiti.  The country has been exploited and abused in the past.  But there is also  a culture of dependency on others, not least foreign aid.  Haiti needs material assets, but in the long term the country needs the intangible assets of skills, hard work and a desire for change.

“Haiti’s Avoidable Death Toll” makes the point that Haiti’s poverty is the result of severe corruption and restrictions on economic liberty.  Free Trade and transparent justice would dramatically improve the economy.

The conclusion, therefore, is “To Help Haiti, End Foreign Aid” (from the Wall Street Journal).  Lots of foreign money has poured into Haiti over the years, yet reports reveal very little (if any) long term benefit.  Foreign Aid can often destroy the local economy (e.g. if tonnes of food are imported, local food producers are forced out of business).

“More than a million dead” reminds us that 150,000 people die every day, and this article takes us straight to the gospel response.

The Lord has a salvation so audacious He can call earthquakes ‘birth-pains’.  (As can Paul – Rom 8:22).  Certainly they are birth-pains.  But they are birth-pains.  Jesus has a redemption so all-embracing that it will include even these evils.  It won’t simply side-step Haiti, or make the best of a bad situation, it will (somehow!) lift Haiti through this calamity and birth something more glorious out of the pain.

Finally, here’s a sermon by Mark Driscoll who visited Haiti soon after the earthquake.  I haven’t seen it myself, but I think it will be very good.

Update: My interest in these articles is not to accuse the Haitians of deserving the disaster. Of course not. But I am interested in the link between ‘natural disasters’ and human sin.  A lot of people instinctively respond to the earthquake with “There cannot be a good and powerful God.”  I think a better response would be “Humanity is deeply entangled in sin and suffering. Have Mercy O Lord.”

Neither am I suggesting that Disaster Response and Aid should not be given.  If we are tempted to think, “Oh, there’s so much sin to blame, I’d rather not give help” then that means we have entirely missed the point of the gospel.  “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”  These posts do show that Foreign Aid needs to be carefully thought about so that corruption and poverty is not maintained.  Most of all, they show us that the people of Haiti – like all of us – need Jesus Christ.

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