Haiti Table of Contents

Protestantism has existed in Haiti since the earliest days of the republic. By the mid-nineteenth century, there were small numbers of Protestant missions, principally Baptist, Methodist, and Episcopalian. Protestant churches, mostly from North America, have sent many foreign missions to Haiti. Almost half of Haiti's Protestants were Baptists; Pentecostals were the second largest group. Many other denominations also were present, including Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, and Presbyterians. Widespread Protestant proselytization began in the 1950s. Since the late 1950s, about 20 percent of the population has identified itself as Protestant. Protestantism has appealed mainly to the middle and the upper classes, and it played an important role in educational life.

Protestant churches focused their appeal on the lower classes long before the Roman Catholics did. Churches and clergy were found even in the smaller villages. Protestant clergy used Creole rather than French. Schools and clinics provided much-needed services. Protestant congregations encouraged baptisms and marriages and performed them free. For many Haitians, Protestantism represented an opposition to voodoo. When people converted to Protestantism, they usually did not reject voodoo, but they often came to view the folk religion as diabolical. Most Protestant denominations considered all loua, including family spirits, as demons. Some Haitians converted to Protestantism when they wanted to reject family spirits that they felt had failed to protect them. Others chose to become Protestants merely as a way to gain an alternative form of protection from misfortune.

François Duvalier, in his struggle with the Roman Catholic Church, welcomed Protestant missionaries, especially from the United States. Dependent on the government for their presence in Haiti, and competing with each other as well as with the Roman Catholics, Protestant missions generally accepted the policies of the Duvalier regimes. Numerous Protestant leaders did, however, join with Roman Catholics in their public opposition to the government during the waning days of Jean-Claude Duvalier's power.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress