A distinguished Haitian Christian minister and scientist who researched rumors about Haiti’s 18th century independence movement’s alleged pact with Satan, cited by TV evangelist Pat Robertson as the source of the country’s poverty, pestilence and earthquake woes, is little more than an uncorroborated rumor.

Robertson made the claim on his “700 Club” TV program earlier this week as the full extent of the devastation from the quake that may have killed as many as 100,000 was becoming known.

“Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it,” he said. “They were under the heel of the French … 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 the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.’ Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after another.”

But Jean R. Gelin, a Ph.D and minister in Haiti, says he studied the issue and found no substantiation of the claim.

“Obviously, the idea that Haiti was dedicated to Satan prior to its indepednence is a very serious and profound statement with potentially grave consequences for its people in terms of how they are perceived by others or how the whole nation is understood outside its borders,” Gelin wrote in a 2005 series of articles about his findings. “One would agree that such a strong affirmation should be based on solid historical and scriptural ground. But, although the satanic pact idea is by far the most popular explanation for Haiti’s birth as a free nation, especially among Christian missionaries and some Haitian church leaders, it is nothing more than a fantastic opinion that ultimately dissipates upon close examination.”

Gelin says his studies of Haitian history turn up no good evidence of the satanic pact.

“The worst part of the whole picture is that the story is believed by many sincere Christians in America and around the world; and not only do they believe it, they also spread it as fact,” he wrote. “The tragedy of our age is that repeated lies are often mistake for truth, especially when repeated long enough. That’s particularly the case in religious circles where faith on the part of the audience is generally expected, but that should never be so for those who believe the Bible.”

In all of his research, Gelin was unable to uncover the original source of the rumor.

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