During the first week of November, 2010 a flood hit Haiti that left an estimated 1500 people in the city of Leogane without shelter. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints (otherwise know as the Mormons) has a large new chapel in Leogane where many people could have been sheltered, but they were turned away. The Mormon Church prides itself on humanitarian efforts boasting numerous causes and an outpouring of financial resources. Like other missionary groups the church goes into other countries to teach and convert the local people to their version of Christianity.
This building is large and equipped with a large satellite, full kitchen, bathrooms including showers, and is outfitted with back up generator power for situations just like this. The structure is strong and built well being capable of providing aid to hundreds of people in need.
Why didn’t the Mormon Church open its doors to those in need? Simply because the bishop would have to ask the stake president, who would have to ask the area authority, who would have to ask the general authority, and so on. Is this reason valid or simply another tactic of oppression of these people? Many other churches opened their doors, not the Mormons. In order to receive help in that building they had to be a member of that church. To be a member they have to change the way they dress, change what they eat, how they talk, their entire spiritual belief system, and agree to always follow a white, American Prophet who knows nothing about who they are or their situation.
Furthermore, they have to subscribe to the belief that they have inherited an evil curse put on Cain, the son of Adam and Eve, for killing his brother. The curse being manifest by their “dark and loathsome” skin. For the color of their skin alone they are labeled as evil. Not only does this church strive to strip them of their Haitian identity, they also strip them of self-esteem and goodness in the eyes of the God they want them to believe in and obey. Severe oppression can be the only reason a church such as this, one that believes that anyone with a dark skin comes from the curse of Cain, would want to build a presence in a community where none of the people would ever be “worthy enough”
By not allowing “non-members” access to the sanctuary of their building during a disaster such as this, they send a loud message essentially saying join us and feast or be against us and perish. Just as the government of El Salvador praised the soldiers for the loss of life being minimized during the slaughter of Martín-Baró, the Mormon Church in Leogane claimed their local clergymen had no power to open their doors. Both of these situations robbed people of the truth. Twisting the truth is a powerful tool of oppression all over the world, however in this situation it seems more insidious. Not only would a Haitian have to denounce his or her traditional beliefs and traditions, but they would also be forced to abandon their very identity adopting not only a white American view of who they are, but adding on a more shaming view of who the Mormons view them to be because of their skin color. If they don’t submit to these views and practices 100%, they don’t get the “blessings” of membership.
The stance the Mormon Church takes and enforces here in Haiti shows a strong ahistorical method of oppression. The Church is the authority on everything, temporal and spiritual. Claiming to be Christian with a strong emphasis on “families being together forever” the people are told to put all their faith in, and obedience to, the Church as it professes to be a safety net. It demands they believe a history of themselves that the Church endorses, and insists they adopt the future the church deems as the only good and right way. “This makes it impossible to derive lessons from experience and, more important, makes it impossible to find the roots of one’s own identity, which is as much needed for interpreting one’s sense of the present as for glimpsing possible alternatives that might exist.” (Martin-Baró, p. 30). For example the psychology of the church would say “God is punishing you with this great earthquake and hurricane because your people have been so evil and are cursed with the dark skin therefore follow us, repent, and you will be blessed with safety,” Whereas, a liberated psychology would not blame the victim nor enslave them to improve their circumstances. Rather, it would aim to amplify the virtues of the people and the values they already espouse, honoring the collective goodness already inherent within them. It molds a psychology to their culture which does not impose that of another.