Pat Robertson, a popular Southern Baptist evangelical preacher, said that the tragic Haiti earthquake of January, 2010 was a consequence of Haitians’ pact with the devil a few centuries ago. “[Haitians] were under the heel of the French,” remarked Robertson on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s TV news talk show The 700 Club. “You know, Napoleon III, or whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you’ll get us free from the French.’ True story. And so, the devil said, ‘Okay it’s a deal.’ ”
Where did Pat Robertson get the controversial idea of the Haitian agreement with the devil and the subsequent curse on Haiti? Is there any basis for Pat Robertson’s comment and belief that the Haiti quake was caused by an arrangement with Satan?
On his first trip to the New World, Christopher Columbus explored and claimed the island of Hispaniola, of which Haiti today comprises the western half and the Dominican Republic the eastern half. Within a few decades, Spanish settlers had virtually wiped out the native inhabitants of the island through killing, slavery, and disease.
In the late 17th century, Spain agreed to hand over the western half of Hispaniola to France. The French made present-day Haiti into one of the richest colonies in the Caribbean by bringing African slaves to work the land and by exploiting the land's resources.
In the late 18th century, the nearly 500,000 slaves of present-day Haiti revolted against the French. After a nearly decade-and-a-half struggle, modern-day Haiti won its independence from French control in 1804.
Despite achieving its independence, Haiti’s difficulties have continued. Political instability and economic problems have plagued the country for much of its history. Today, Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere.
Some Christians around the world, including in Haiti itself, explain Haiti’s difficulties throughout much of modern history by pointing to a pact that they say Haitians made with the devil that resulted in a curse on the country.
The myth of the Haitian satanic pact claims that a gathering of African slaves, some of whom were voodoo priests, made a deal with the devil. In return for Satan’s assistance in helping them expel the French from Haiti, the people would give Haiti to the devil for 200 years.
There is no hard evidence, however, that substantiates the validity of the Haitian satanic agreement story. This dubious historical account may have originated with Christian missionaries who were seeking to establish a foothold in Haiti.
Today, according to the CIA World Factbook, the religious makeup of Haiti is strongly Christian, with a population that is 80% Roman Catholic and 16% Protestant.
Over half of the population combines vodou (known by some as voodoo) practices with Christianity and other faiths. Haitian voodoo is a combination of African, European, and native spirituality.
In addition to their desire to perpetuate their own worldview as morally correct and superior, it seems that some Christians' false historical account of the Haitian deal with Satan is based on their fear and misunderstanding of others’ beliefs.
Speaking of the consequences of Haitians’ purported agreement with the devil, Robertson elaborated on his belief that the people of Haiti have misguided spiritual beliefs: “Haiti is in desperate poverty...[Haitians] need to have, and we need to pray for them, a great turning to God. And out of this tragedy, I’m optimistic something good may come.”