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#1643: Fear Dominates Haiti for 2000 (fwd)
Thursday December 30 7:04 PM ET
Fear Dominates Haiti for 2000
By MICHAEL NORTON Associated Press Writer
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - For two hours they pray and chant in the
shantytown meetinghouse. Minutes before sunrise, the lamentation stops.
The room explodes with cries of jubilation aimed at triumphing over evil
and surviving the end of the millennium. ``Victory! Victory! Victory!''
shout the members of a Haitian Protestant church group. ``Hallelujah!
Long live Jesus Christ!'' Worshippers fall into a trance much like the
practitioners of voodoo they have left behind. Their arms flail, their
bodies reel and sway back and forth, they stare out into space with
popping eyes. Some shout incoherently in distorted voices that sound
more like a roar than a prayer. Such sessions have become more frequent
among Haiti's minority Protestants, who are hoping to strengthen
Christian belief in this Caribbean nation by using the Bible to
interpret the meaning of the new millennium - and, in many cases, ease
fears of what it may bring. ``The Bible says we should be vigilant,''
said Felix Jean, a 42-year-old farmer. ``Something is on the way - we
don't know what. I'm preparing my soul, praying for its deliverance.''
Most Haitians live precarious lives in the poorest country in the
Western Hemisphere and are vulnerable to irrational fears.
During a partial solar eclipse two years ago, Haitians rich and poor,
educated and uneducated, barricaded themselves inside
their homes because they believed the sun's rays had become lethal.
In increasing numbers, Haitians have turned from voodoo to evangelical
groups. Encouraged by American missionaries, the Protestant population
has grown in recent decades to perhaps a third of Haiti's 8 million
people. ``A lot of new pastors have sprung up preaching the end of the
world,'' said Reynold Pierre, 51, who always carries a Bible
zipped up in a leather case. ``I'm praying day and night.'' ``Jesus is
coming. Earthquakes and the AIDS epidemic herald his coming,'' said
saleswoman Felicienne Jean, 43. ``Next year, the final battle between
good and evil will take place.'' Every morning at 3 a.m., Brother
Wilfrid Ynseul goes from house to house, gathering parishioners for his
Church of God Pentecostal Church. When the group swells to about 40
people, it stops at someone's home for a revival meeting. The group
is marking the millennium's approach with a week of fasting before New
Year's Day. Recently, the group ended up among the shanties and
cinderblock houses in a dry gulch of the Morne Hercule neighborhood
in suburban Petionville. Their preaching and singing, accompanied by a
tambourine, echoed through the gully and woke up the neighborhood.
Many in the congregation ``are afraid of the troubled days to come,''
said Brother Spencer Vil. ``We're here to give them solace, to tell them
not to worry - that, if they believe in Jesus, nothing bad will happen
to them, no matter what happens.''