Update: The Cholera Witch-Hunt in Haiti

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 24, 2010 — 18 Comments

Since I first reported on Vodou practitioners being killed and persecuted in Haiti over frustration and fears concerning the ongoing cholera outbreak the situation seems to have only gotten worse. At the beginning of December around 12 Vodouisants had been killed by angry mobs, now that number has ballooned to over 40.

Officials counted 40 people killed – mostly voodoo priests – killed in one region of Haiti, the AFP news agency reported, with five others killed elsewhere. “The victims… were stoned or hacked with machetes before being burned in the streets,” communications ministry official Moise Fritz Evens said. Haiti’s communications minister said she abhorred the killings and insisted that the answer was to improve general education about how cholera is transmitted. “Voodoo practitioners have nothing to do with the cholera epidemic. We must press for an awareness campaign about the disease in the communities.”

Prominent Haitian Vodou leader Max Beauvoir says that the government isn’t doing enough to protect Vodou practitioners, and that the leaders of other faiths in Haiti have had a hand in stirring up this current deadly anti-Vodou hysteria.

“My call is to the authorities so they can assume their responsibilities,” said Beauvoir, who fears more attacks against voodoo devotees. Most of the lynchings occurred in the southwest of Haiti but also in the center and the north. […] Beauvoir said he suspected that representatives of some other religions might be stirring up popular fears against voodoo practitioners using the cholera as a pretext. “I saw this coming. Since the earthquake some people have been blaming us, saying that we cast spells and did evil things which brought the earthquake as a punishment,” he said.

The impact of education campaigns by the government and NGOs seem to be of limited effectiveness in stemming this disturbing trend of anti-Vodou violence. This is only exacerbated by the ongoing instability of the government in the still-contested elections. The real question now is how much worse will it get? Will these attacks and murders against Vodou practitioners and priests continue to escalate? What role has anti- Vodou propaganda had in this violence? I can only pray that an end to this madness and chaos comes soon.

Jason Pitzl-Waters