Rarely have a nation and its leader suffered such castigation as Haiti and François Duvalier in the current film The Comedians, which is anything but comic. Graham Greene’s story teems with political corruption, paganism, and sadism drawn from real life—and death. To bring things up to date, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights is scheduling hearings this month on mistreatment of Haiti’s numerous political prisoners.
The real-life Duvalier has more than public relations to worry about. After years of divisiveness and frustration, 40,000 anti-Duvalier exiles in the United States have forged a common front, the Haitian Coalition. Its affable, 36-year-old leader, Raymond Joseph, is hardly what doctrinaire liberal or conservative Protestants would expect. He’s an anti-Communist lecturer, Bible translator, and graduate of Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College—in short, an evangelical who has chosen the vocation of social revolution.
Why revolution? Besides being a mess politically, says Joseph, Haiti is the Western Hemisphere’s most illiterate, most impoverished nation.
As is true in all Latin lands, Haiti’s religion is largely Roman Catholic, but Joseph’s father was a leading Baptist pastor who worked with the West Indies Mission. Joseph says that Catholicism traditionally has been identified with the urban mulatto elite and Protestantism has made a successful appeal to black rural peasants. He still recalls a Catholic forced-conversion drive in the 1940s, with government help. Since Vatican II the church has gotten interested in such things as literacy campaigns.
Although Duvalier is Catholic, priests form one bloc he can’t control. He was excommunicated by the Vatican when he threw out the archbishop, but the feud ...1
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