Book Synopsis by Eileen Norman

Haiti: Beyond the Rubble by J. Sadraque Cius

This is a story of hope and faith. Cius stresses throughout that nothing of value is accomplished without struggle. That suffering is part of the human condition, but with grace yields blessings. He knows this on a very personal level as one of twelve children left fatherless after his minister father was killed in an accident. He says, “ I was fatherless at seven and spent many days without food, losing some of my family member to starvation. He recounts his mother’s incredible struggle to feed her family and her faith that led her children to trust God even when they had no food that day. She would gather them to pray and tell God that she knew He had many children to feed, but she believed he would bring food tomorrow. Then, when God provided through a neighbor bringing a dollar the next day, they would gather that evening to thank and praise God. When Cius became seriously ill and doctors could not diagnose his illness, his mother carried him up mountains on her back to other doctors seeking help. Many people were praying for him and he promised God that if God healed him he would preach the gospel of hope to everyone he met.

Cius had to overcome many daunting obstacles to get an education. But he believed that God would provide the way and that ultimately the blessings would more than match the sufferings along the way. Cius felt called by God to minister to His children somehow and through help from churches and individuals was able to come the United States to study. Getting a degree from Texas Southern University and continuing with graduate studies at the University of Houston, then as both a Baptist minister and as a school teacher in Houston, he was able to fulfill his promise to bring his mother to America.

As a teacher and a minister he has touched many lives and given hope to many young people, who are in what seem like hopeless situations, by his own overcoming of similar and even worse circumstances.

The written history of Santa Domingo, which includes Haiti and the Dominican Republic, begins when Christopher Columbus arrived at Hispanola in 1492. Columbus discovered gold in what is now the Dominican Republic and the following Spanish settlers forced the native Indians to mine gold and raise food for them. They treated the Indians so harshly that by 1530 only a few hundred remained alive. So the settlers began to bring in slaves from Africa to do the work.

This book includes not only Cius’ own history, but the struggle of the people of Haiti since they achieved their freedom from France through the world’s first successful slave revolution in 1804. The United States feared the effect of a successful slave rebellion on slavery in America and would not recognize the independence of Haiti. But the famous American, Frederick Douglas, said, “ Until Haiti struck for freedom, the conscience of the Christian world slept profoundly over slavery. …..the Negro was in its estimation a sheep like creature, having no rights which white men were bound to respect. ….The mission of Haiti was to dispel this degradation, this dangerous delusion, and to give to the world a new and true revelation of the black man’s character…….Until Haiti spoke, the slave trade was sanctioned by all the Christian nations of the world, including our land of liberty and light.”

The great powers of the world feared the emancipation of slaves who were the basis of much of their wealth. So, they quarantined the country with an economic embargo. Twenty years later, in 1862 France finally acknowledged Haiti on the condition that Haiti compensate France for the loss of its property, its slaves. In today’s currency France shackled Haiti with the equivalent of a $21 Billion dollar debt, which Haiti couldn’t finish paying until 1947. Haiti is the oldest Negro republic in the world and the second oldest (after the United State) free nation in the Western Hemisphere. It was nearly 60 years before the United States recognized Haiti as a nation in 1862. The U.S. saw Haiti as a key site to establish client governments to protect U.S. interests from the Germans and French in the Caribbean. In 1915, Woodrow Wilson used the excuse of political instability to invade Haiti and occupy it until 1934. Haiti had already had to borrow from France and the U.S. to pay reparations for freeing the slaves. Now the U.S. took $500,000 from Haiti’s National bank for safe keeping. It did however, build highways, schools and hospitals. But American Corporations taking advantage of cheap labor gained control of 266,000 acres of Haitian land, displacing thousands of Haitian peasants. Haitians led by Charlemagne Peralte rose up against this exploitation, which was having the same effect as what France had done by using slave labor to enrich themselves from the sugar, coffee and tobacco plantations. The United States killed thousands of resistance fighters and killed Peralte.   Finally in 1934 after investigations into abuses, the U.S. under Franklin Roosevelt withdrew from Haiti. The following two presidents of Haiti encouraged foreign investors, but only the upper class mulattoes benefited from these investments.

Unfortunately, there has been much unrest in Haiti since 1946. In 1957 Francois Duvalier was elected president. In 1964 he declared himself president for life and in 1971 passed the presidency to his son. Under their rule in exchange for a loan of $24.6 million, Haiti lowered their laws protecting their own products such as rice. Soon Haiti was having to buy basic food products from other countries. As recently as the early 80’s Haiti was producing enough of its own rice, sugar, coffee and most of what other produce it needed, but now more than 70% of rice is imported from the U.S. Bill Clinton has publicly apologized for the role he also played in the policy of trying to be the suppliers of food to poor countries, so they could move into the industrial era. He admitted that though it had been good for the farmers in Arkansas, it has not worked in other countries.

When the 2010 earthquake hit Haiti it killed more people than any other earthquake in modern history. It left 220,000 people dead and 300,000 injured. Cius had in 2000 helped build a church and school in the area of Haiti where he grew up. So he flew to Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake trying to find his family members and to see what was needed to help the church and school. The school was totally destroyed and the roof of the church was gone. He began to collect supplies and money to repair the roof of the church. Soon three hundred people were sleeping there and classes were being held for children.  His stories of both terrible losses and amazing recoveries are unimaginable to those of us never experiencing any disaster on this scale.   In the midst of heart breaking tragedy, there is story after story of miraculous survival even after any expectation of finding survivors was over.

There was only an incomplete government plan for disaster response in place when the earthquake hit. And the lack of infrastructure in Haiti and its rural nature handicapped a co-ordinated response. Though there was an unprecedented outpouring of money from both the governments and the Non -Government Organizations of many different countries, at least $13.5 Billion, Haiti remains in ruins with many still homeless, living in tents and temporary tin huts without water or power.

Some of this is simply because of lack of a unified plan, because the money comes from and through so many different governments and agencies. Some is because no one believes the government of Haiti has the skills and resources to take charge of something this large. Yet the one part of the Haitian government that does receive direct funding from the US is the Health Ministry, which has racked up impressive –post earthquake gains in childhood vaccination rates and access to life saving HIV treatments. And though the rubble is off the streets and there is a semblance of normality, there have not been the improvements there should have been, given the resources.

There are accounts in newspapers and other news sources of misuse of funds at every level even in some of the most well known and respected national and international charitable organizations. There are accounts of corruption in the government of Haiti.   There are accounts of the exorbitant costs of overhead of setting up so many individual agencies. The NGO’s have bought expensive Toyota Land Cruisers to cover the areas that are still without good roads. Each organization needs an office, housing, food, medical support for workers, etc. etc. All of which whittles down what actually goes into restoring Haiti. Cius tells of two Congressmen and a Haitian Ambassador, who collected money from Houston’s Mega Churches with no one able to account for where it actually was used to help Haitians.  But at the same time there are people from all over the world working hard to help Haiti and the people of Haiti have persevered under the worst of circumstances.

So, as discouraging as the situation is, Cius keeps the faith that God is working in the worst of Haiti’s corruption and inadequacies. He sees the recent discovery of gold, silver, and copper in rich deposits in Haiti as God giving Haiti a chance to learn from the past and begin to become a prosperous Christian country, able to support itself and rise from the rubble of its past.

He continues to raise awareness, support, supplies and mission groups for Haiti. He does this through the sale of his book on Amazon, the People Outreach Ministry, Inc. (a 501 C 3 Corporation), speaking to churches and other groups, and a web site www.PeopleOutreach.org.