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empty Posted December 2005
Jean R. Gelin, Ph.D.
God, Satan, and the Birth of Haiti
Part Three
Jean R. Gelin, Ph.D.

Moving from Saint-Domingue into Haiti (continued)
Surprisingly, those who wrote to the French had a biblically accurate understanding of God’s character. Didn’t God free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt13, and didn’t He deliver the young David from the giant Goliath who wanted to enslave the entire nation of Israel?14 And after Israel had become a stable nation and the Jews began to have their own slaves (usually prisoners of war or indebted people), God himself commanded that every 7 years all slaves should be freed and all debts cancelled, in order to teach them that He was against the idea that a man could live his earthly life as the property of another man – for whatever reason. That 7th year was called the year of the Sabbath in Israel, and after 7 sabbatical years, the year of Jubilee was celebrated on the 50th year with the same proclamation of liberty and forgiveness throughout the land.15

Haiti does not have a ‘Liberty Bell’ with a reference to the year of Jubilee stamped on it as does the United States16, but the story of Haiti’s independence has absolutely nothing to do with the devil and corresponds a great deal to these biblical principles of liberty for all men, women, and children. Decades before President Abraham Lincoln issued the ‘Emancipation Proclamation’ to free the African slaves in the United States17, their brothers and sisters in Haiti had already broken their own rusty and bloody chains through unity, faith in God, bravery and determination.

In my opinion, the only story in the entire Bible that bears some good similarities with the mindset and stance of the leaders of the Haitian revolution is the story of Shadrach, Meshach and AbedNego. Like the first Haitians leaders, these young Hebrews were uprooted from their homeland, brought to Babylon (modern-day Iraq), and became human properties of king Nebuchadnezzar. While their physical body was under the King’s complete control, they remained free in their spirit, their soul and their conscience. They were also supported by their strong faith in the God of their fathers, the God of Liberty, the God of forgiveness and emancipation. Therefore, when summoned by the king to bow before his statue in worship, they could do nothing but refuse. In that regard, their response was strikingly comparable to the response the Haitian leaders gave to the French - a response of unity, faith, courage, bravery and determination:

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (Daniel 3:16-18).

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego chose death over idol worship, with the hope that God was on their side and was able to save them. Similarly, the leaders of the Haitian revolution chose death over slavery, with the hope that God, who fights for the innocent, was going to grant them their freedom and human dignity. Even if God was not going to intervene of their behalf, the Haitians leaders (like the young Hebrews before them) were ready to die rather than accept their subhuman status dictated by Napoleon. And in both cases, God’s assistance was manifest for all to see. After independence, however, Haiti’s leaders were faced with a new set of challenges, things they did not know and never expected.

Haiti’s first steps after 1804
Haiti’s emergence as a free nation in the New World was similar to the birth of an unwanted child. After winning its liberty through the literal destruction of the entire colonial structure, the new country was simply not welcome in the community of nations. Haiti was not needed as Saint-Domingue has been for so long in the past. The threat of invasion by France prompted Dessalines to order the construction of several fortresses throughout the country. The landmark of that campaign is the superb Citadelle, described by the world heritage committee of the United Nations as a universal symbol of liberty18. The invasion never materialized, and French troops did not return to the country until 200 years later under the command of the United Nations. Nevertheless, Haiti was forced to pay a large compensation to France before its independence could finally be accepted. Many historians believe that this huge financial burden, in the order of several millions and lasting one century, plays a critical role in the country’s slow but steady descent into poverty.

Along with France, the United States and even the Vatican initially refused to recognize the new nation. For reasons known only to them, the leaders of the Catholic Church in Europe, who were very much involved in Saint-Domingue, declined to have diplomatic relations with Haiti, even after repeated attempts by several heads of state, and despite the fact that Catholicism was made the official religion of the new country19.

While efforts were being made by many for international recognition and acceptance, Haiti opened its door to protestant missionaries from England and the United States shortly after 1804. These missionaries started preaching in many parts of the country, building churches, schools, clinics, and hospitals – works they still do today to the benefice of the Haitian population. But one event worth recalling is how Haiti, despite all its difficulties, made room for Jews who were fleeing Germany’s persecution and the upcoming holocaust in Europe. This hospitality offered to the Jews in their time of need could be seen as yet another fundamental difference of priorities between Saint-Domingue and Haiti, considering that under the ‘Code Noir’ published in 1685 the presence of Jews was not tolerated in the French colonies.20 The Jewish families that found a safe haven in Haiti around World War II formed a small and prosperous community that still exists in the country today.21

Although profoundly tolerant in matters of religion and faith, the Haitian people in general have always been pro-God, and open to the ideals of peace, prosperity, and freedom shared by humanity. The next time you come across the baseless and ridiculous idea that Satan himself, the greatest and most famous slave owner of the entire universe, somehow helped the Haitian revolutionary army defeat Napoleon’s forces, please do yourself a big favor: Just don’t believe it.

13 – The exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt is described in the Bible in Exodus

14 – The biblical story of David and Goliath can be found in 1 Samuel 17.

15 – The year of the Sabbath and the year of Jubilee are described in Leviticus 25 and Deuteronomy 15.

16 - Go to for information on the liberty Bell.

17 – On January 1st, 1863, almost 6 decades after Haiti’s proclaimed its independence from France, President Abraham Lincoln issued the ‘Emancipation Proclamation’ in the United States by declaring that all persons held as slaves shall be free. Blacks were accepted into the Union Army. See

18 – Reference to the Citadelle by the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations can be found at

19 - Leyburn, J.G. 1941. The Haitian People. Yale University Press.

20 – The complete text of the Code Noir is available in French at

21 - For information of the Haiti’s small Jewish community, go to the Chicago Jewish Community Online at

Jean R. Gelin is a licensed minister of the Church of God and serves as an assistant pastor for a young Haitian-American church in the United States. He holds a Ph.D. in plant sciences and works as a scientist in agricultural research. Dr. Gelin can be contacted at regarding this article.

Copyright @2005 Jean Gelin, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission,

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