In late April, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former Catholic priest, declared voodoo an officially recognized religion. It's a move that some Christians in the chronically poor nation of 7.5 million people say is an ominous sign.
"The government said they are going to turn the country entirely to voodoo. The Christians say we are going to turn the country totally to the Lord Jesus Christ," said Jean Berthony Paul, founder of Mission Evangelique du Nord D'Haiti.
The decision means, among other things, that voodoo marriage ceremonies will have equal legal standing. Voodoo venerates a mixture of African gods and Catholic saints and practices spiritism. Haiti ended its recognition of Roman Catholicism as the state church in 1987.
Pastors and missionaries in St. Marc organized a rally on August 14, a key voodoo holiday, to counter the witchcraft they say voodoo involves. Missionaries have also circulated unconfirmed reports that a child was abducted from the town hospital to be made a voodoo sacrifice.
They fear Aristide is planning to renew a 200-year-old national "pact with the devil" on January 1, 2004. Many Haitians credit the country's independence to voodoo.
Evangelicals have been growing by 3 percent a year, nearly double the population growth rate. Officially, 80 percent of the population is Catholic and 16 percent is Protestant. But many practice voodoo along with their Christian observance.
"There have been some difficulties, some confrontations that could, perhaps, affect the church from this point on," said a pastor from the Dominican Republic who makes frequent visits to Haiti. "But the servants of God have not been hindered."
Compass Direct has a photo of Paul.
Related recent news stories and backgrounders ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.