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2010 World Vision/ Photo credit: Jon Warren
2010 World Vision/ Photo credit: Jon Warren
World News

Researcher highlights resilient Christian faith of Haitians 10 years after catastrophic earthquake

by Tola Mbakwe

A Christian researcher has said the Christian faith has played a vital role in helping victims of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti recover the disaster.

Sunday marked exactly ten years since the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck and impacted almost 3 million people in the country.

Around 250,000 lives were lost and 300,000 people were injured in what is known as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Roger Abbott, senior research associate for natural disasters at The Faraday Institute for Science & Religion in Cambridge started work in Haiti ten months after the earthquake, when the cholera outbreak was at its worst.

He went as a chaplain to an international charity and told Premier it’s during that time he saw a glimpse of how people’s relationship with God helped them in such a devastating time.

“Whether they were living in camps or whether they were back in their homes or just left their homes they were just getting on with life,” he said.

“They are a hugely courageous and robust people. Resilience is a sort of common term that's used.

“These people are already been devastated by the earthquake, they then were nearly dying from cholera, but they were continuing to sing praises to God and to worship him.

“I left Haiti thinking ‘wow, what is it that can do this to these people, can make them this kind of robust and praising people?’"

In 2012 Abbott returned to Haiti in a reseach capacity and interviewed several hundred people in different demographics to find out more about the role of religious beliefs during the aftermath of the earthquake.

He told Premier it became very clear that the Christian faith was of “enormous value to them” in terms of giving them a framework of understanding of the earthquake.

Abbott added: “Most of these people, irrespective of their education, did not know what an earthquake was. So when one happened like it did, it was utterly new and it was terrifying.

“But they had already read about earthquakes happening and being told that they would happen in the New Testament and that had a great effect in terms of helping them understand.

“They would say ‘we know that these things are totally out of control but we know a God who has them in control’. So in terms of the therapeutic value of their faith, it was enormously valuable to them.”

When asked what role churches had in recovery efforts Abbott said it was “difficult” to assess what the church has been doing to help with recovery because the churches are run by “ordinary people” who were also suffering.

“Christians died in their churches as they were praying, so the Christians suffered as much as anyone else did. It took time for the churches to regather and get their own lives back together as well as to try and be an encouragement jointly as communities and to their country.

“I remember interviewing the former Roman Catholic archbishop of Port au Prince and he admitted to me he was disappointed in the in what the church has been able to achieve.”

Abbott said other denominations have been and still are “doing wat they can”.

He urged Christians to not forget to pray for Haiti ten years on from the earthquake as “compassion and donor fatigue sets in”.

“We need to pray for God to raise up leaders with integrity, leaders who care for their country and not for their own pocket,” he told Premier.

“We need to pray for a stronger voice to come and the united voice to come from the Church to the people of the country. We need to pray for the Church to thrive in Haiti, theologically and pastorally."

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