The Fight for Vodou in Haiti

Locals are battling to retain their religion and protect its perception both at home and abroad, writes Gina Athena Ulysse in the Huffington Post.

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In Haiti, locals took to the streets recently to protest a new governmental decree that threatens the practice of the Vodou religion. Gina Athena Ulysse, a contributor at the Huffington Post, writes that the amendment would repeal Article 297, which protected "ceremonies, rites, dances and meetings with offerings of animal sacrifices."

Indeed, practitioners are rightfully concerned since the establishment of this decree not only led to the persecution of the religion but reinforced its continuous demonization and stigmatization both at home and abroad. Since Vodou is a decentralized religion, in such troubled times Vodouists have consolidated their efforts to withstand and survive repression whether from the hand of French colonialists or their own brethren.

In recent years, defensive tactics have included the formation of umbrella organizations (such as Zantray and Bode Nasyonal) that brought practitioners together to address common concerns. It must be noted that these groupings are not necessarily representative of all Vodouists and are not without controversy. Nonetheless, with the persistent presence of protestant missions and increasingly aggressive spiritual cleansings and other attacks especially since the 2010 earthquake, Vodouists have become increasingly vulnerable and have to be on the offensive.

Anthropologist Rachel Beauvoir Dominique, Vice-Provost of research and Chair of the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at l'Université d'Etat d'Haïti, a priestess, remains vigilant about defending the practice. She is the daughter of Max Beauvoir, renowned priest of the Temple of Yehweand public representative of Vodou. She took part in the big march held in February 1986, when anti-Vodou sentiments led to the persecution of practitioners during the Duvalier dechoukaj (uprooting). The efforts of protesters and their demands to end this criminalization eventually brought about Article 297, which was added to the 1987 Constitution.

Read Gina Athena Ulysse's entire piece at the Huffington Post.

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