A bishop in Haiti has responded to widespread concerns that the earthquake was a ‘divine punishment’ by insisting on the love and mercy of God offered to the people in this time of crisis.
In a message to the Haitian people and the families of earthquake victims, Bishop Guy Poulard of Les Cayes in Haiti, said that the disaster was a natural phenomenon rather than divine retribution.
His words were also sent to organizations which had helped with relief efforts in the country, including Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians.
In his message he admitted questions could be asked about God’s role in the disaster, and that if they were living in Old Testament times people would have said that the country was paying for its sins.
But, he went on to say, “We are not living in those times. The Word of God enlightens us more than that. God has not done this to torture us.”
Bishop Poulard went on to stress the positive message of the New Testament, quoting St. John’s Gospel: “God loved the world so much that He gave His only son so that whoever believes in Him does not perish but has life – everlasting life. He did not send His son to condemn the world but to deliver it.”
He added, “Our current desolation is not the result of a curse from God.”
The bishop pointed towards the earthquake as a natural disaster, rather than divine retribution. Bishop Poulard said, “Science shows us that nature has laws by which it is organized – these are beyond anything human intelligence can do to overcome them.”
He went on to say that the disaster could not have been prevented and praised the national and international efforts to help the victims — especially those who dug out those buried under the rubble and carried the injured to medical centers.
Reflecting on the task of rebuilding the country the bishop said, “The way is long, it will be difficult.”
“We need the prayer – much prayer: not prayers that accuse God of punishing our faults; nor religious services that profit from the misery of our people to increase the size of congregations; not the sort of worship that maintains fear, but the prayer a child to his father, a prayer clarifying, and revealing, what we must do.”
Bishop Poulard went to on to repeat his conviction that God was with the people of Haiti, aiding them as they faced the aftermath of the earthquake.
He said, “How the Holy Spirit helps us in these difficult times! We face a hard test: people have died, others are reported missing, houses have been destroyed, well-known public buildings – both those belonging to the State and the Church — have fallen down.”
“But, we are here, we are alive,” the bishop said. “The torch of hope has been lit! Let us work together to rebuild Haiti!”
While Les Cayes Diocese suffered damage during the earthquake it was not as badly hit as nearby Jacmel Diocese.
ACN has sent $170,000 in aid to provide food, clean water, clothing, medical aid and temporary shelter, including help for seminarians who were made homeless during the disaster.
The charity’s aid is being channeled into the earthquake-stricken country via the Apostolic Nuncio to Haiti, Archbishop Bernardito Auza.