by Margarita Mooney Clayton on January 18, 2010

Margarita A. Mooney’s response to: “A Celebration of Faith, Even Among Church Ruins.” By Fred Grimm. Published in the Miami Herald, January 18, 2010. Accessed on January 18th, 2010. Click here to read Grimm’s column.

I congratulate Fred Grimm for his passionate writing and insightful interpretation of what it means to worship God amidst the current ruinous state of Haiti. He both presents the worldview of the Haitians he observed at Sunday services in Haiti—one based on God’s goodness and ability to bring new life from ashes—and he lays bare what I dare say is the worldview of most American commentators on the situation in Haiti (including Mr. Grimm)—namely, that God, if he exists at all, would not have let such a terrible thing happen. As I write about in my book, Faith Makes Us Live: Surviving and Thriving in the Haitian Diaspora(University of California Press, 2009), because Haiti is so poor, others often interpret Haitians’ boundless faith in God as simply a crutch to rely on. However, as I found in my research in three Haitian Catholic communities of the diaspora (Miami, Montreal and Paris), the expressions of faith such as those Mr. Grimm describes— people coming together to pray, to ask for forgiveness, to thank God for miracles—help communities renew from within. Clearly the Haitian people need all the material and logistical help they can get right now. But let us not forget that this inward renewal and community strength will greatly magnify any external help we send to Haiti. The Haitian people will not and should not be the passive recipients of external aid. The Haitian people are the greatest resource Haiti has to rebuild itself. Their resilience in the face of disaster forms a foundation upon which all organizations rushing to aid Haiti can build upon. I hope that all of those who help Haiti open their hearts, as Mr. Grimm did, to the possibility that maybe we have something to learn from the Haitian people’s response to the disaster that has struck them. Although Mr. Grimm starts off his column clearly disheartened by the “random, awful, incalculable cruelty” that has occurred in Haiti, he concludes by admitting that it does indeed appear miraculous that people buried under rubble for several days could be rescued alive and recover. If we don’t believe we will see miracles as we rush to help Haiti, why would we expend so much effort looking for life under rubble? If we don’t believe that the faith of Haitian people presents Haiti’s greatest resource as we move forward, with what purpose will we expend millions of dollars in effort and send thousands of relief workers? Regardless of one’s personal worldview or religious faith, we cannot deny that communities of faith provide a tremendous resource to further the hard work that must be done for Haiti’s recovery.