". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


As Chaos Reigns in Haiti, What Is Needed for Long-Term Stability?

March 21, 2024

As Haiti continues to experience widespread violence amid warring gangs vying for power in the streets of major urban areas, rescue flights chartered by state officials continued Wednesday to bring stranded American citizens back to the states, with hundreds more still awaiting extraction. Experts say that while the causes of Haiti’s problems are diverse and complex, there is hope for the country if basic security can be restored in order to reestablish biblical principles in Haitian society.

In the wake of the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021, Haiti has been engulfed in political turmoil and social unrest, culminating in widespread gang warfare in the capital of Port-au-Prince and other urban areas. The situation escalated dramatically earlier this month when powerful gang leaders demanded the resignation of acting Prime Minister Ariel Henry while he was out of the country, which has caused a power vacuum and anarchy as rival gangs battle for control in the streets.

Trapped in the middle of the chaos are hundreds of foreign nationals and missionaries who operate ministries in the impoverished Caribbean nation, including Jill Dolan and her children. A State Department spokesperson told Fox News that almost 1,600 Americans have asked for the U.S. government’s assistance in escaping the country, but the Biden administration has so far been slow in responding.

On Wednesday, A.J. Nolte, an associate professor at Regent University who specializes in how faith and politics influence state formation, joined “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins” to discuss what is behind the crisis and what the solutions might be. He noted that since gaining its independence from France in the early 1800s, Haiti’s history has been marked by “a pattern of dictatorship followed by chaos and instability.”

Nolte went on to argue for the benefits that Christianity brings to societies. “[G]enerally speaking, religion will actually be a positive for development for societies [because] it increases social trust between [people], and it increases the social capital because religion and religious organizations … combat poverty [and] help bring people together. Christianity in particular tends to be really good for things like literacy because Christians are teaching people to read the Bible.”

But as Nolte further observed, although most of Haiti’s population identifies as Christian, it is commonly syncretized with pagan and voodoo practices, which has created an inverted religious paradigm. “[T]he relationship with the gods is … more equivalent of a Mafia relationship where it’s … very much about extracting power [akin to] a patron/client relationship. [This] sets up an institutional framework where it normalizes that as the way society is organized, [and] that’s going to impact the way [people] think the world works. So unfortunately, I think that could be leading to some of the lack of social trust … in Haiti, and low social trust is definitely something that is inhibiting economic growth and economic development.”

Nolte also contended that if Haiti wants to see long-term stability, the Haitian government and its citizens must find a way to govern effectively without indefinitely relying on outside intervention.

“[I]f you’re going to have a successful solution in Haiti, you have to have locals on the ground who have enough capacity to beat the gangs in a fight if they need to,” he emphasized. “The military and the police [need to] have the ‘monopoly of force’ and also [should] have enough trust from the people that they can govern the country effectively. That’s a very long-term project. … U.S. intervention [would be] a Band-Aid at best. The solution is going to have to come from local folks.”

Nolte continued, “[I]t’s [also] going to have to come from a serious, sustained engagement of faithful Christians. The good news from that perspective is that Christians have a history of being involved in countries like [Haiti], being the first responders, being at the tip of the spear. As I co-wrote in a paper with [FRC’s] Arielle Del Turco, if you want to be a force multiplier for international development, faith-based organizations are the key to that. And so it’s going to have to be primarily local driven, and then the outside actors that are going to have to be the most involved are faith-based.”

But as Nolte acknowledged, “you need security” in order to accomplish these goals. “Security is going to have to come from the U.S. and other actors helping to … train local forces. That’s a long-term project,” he asserted. “[Y]ou might have temporary security provided by internationals, but you need to transition as quickly as you can to trusted local forces.”

Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.