How Haitians Keep It Moving Despite All Odds

Despite great catastrophes, Haitians rely on faith to nurture a sense of hope and optimism. The Haitian spirit may be dented, but it sure isn't broken.

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Haitians in Haiti and expatriates around the world recently marked the first anniversary of the earthquake that wrecked millions of lives and destroyed their country's capital. From Port-au-Prince to Paris, from Montreal to Miami, Haitians mostly observed the day with prayer. They went to church and attended memorial Masses and other religious services to remember a day that, in retrospect, was the beginning of what would turn out to be a year from hell.

For a people famously derided -- by a supposed man of God, no less -- as godforsaken and cursed, Haitians sure don't seem to have tired of praying. If the large turnout at the prayer events is any indication, the Haitian spirit may be dented, but it's sure not broken.

Still, it's safe to assume that when they were praying for divine intervention and redemption, Haitians were thinking more along the lines of a quick recovery of their battered nation rather than the surprising return of an exiled dictator who had battered more than a few Haitian heads during a 15-year reign.

It's enough to make one wonder if all those collective prayers offered in various languages somehow got lost in translation -- or if God just has a weird sense of humor.

The events of the last few days have been anything but funny, however. The arrival of Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, a deeply polarizing figure among Haitians, just complicates an already sad and messy state of affairs and is playing out like a daily soap opera.

That an already weary population seems to be taking Duvalier's presence in relative stride is a testament to their sense of proportion. Average Haitians have much bigger problems to deal with these days than Duvalier. If not, you can believe that there would be daily street protests against him.

Instead people continue to pray.

This is no small feat for folks who have lived through and witnessed the once unimaginable: a capital city reduced to tons of rubble; bodies upon bodies rotting in the streets and dumped like garbage in horrific open graves; crushed limbs amputated with rudimentary instruments and sometimes without anesthesia; and thousands of children orphaned.

Then there was a hurricane, followed by a cholera epidemic that's still killing hundreds of people a day. There was also a fantastically flawed, fraud-riddled presidential election. It's enough to make one believe that God was AWOL in Haiti in 2010. How does anyone stay faithful in the wake of all that?

"Death brings us face-to-face with the fragility of the human condition," he said. "Catastrophic loss of life can shake us as profoundly as the tremors of an earthquake.  However, from the rubble of doubt and fear, we as a people of faith must walk in the hope of the life to come."