Teacher of the Peoples
Johann Valentin Haidt
I believe that, over the centuries, missionaries have done a great deal of good venturing into far away lands to help other folks, but I wonder also if they have not done an equal measure of unintentional mischief. In their quest to "civilize" the inhabitants of other countries, missionaries have spread diseases unknown to those countries, along with ideas that perhaps don't fit the culture. We have seen it in our own countries, where centuries later governments have had to formally apologize for the harm done in attemping to "convert" people from their own traditions and customs, many of which were more beautiful than our own. Something has been lost in these other civilizations, something that can never been regained. Something has been stolen from them.
"The road to hell is paved with good intentions."
The missionaries who went to Haiti to help the orphans there have been charged with kidnapping. The facts of the case are a bit murky, and I do think those folks had good intentions. However, I think they went about it in entirely the wrong way. There was a sense of arrogance in their mission. It seemed as though they felt those children would be better off if they were removed from Haiti, even though many of them still had parents who were alive. It may be true that they would be better off -- in the short term at least -- but in the long term I don't think they would be better off. As those children grew into adults they would wonder about their parents, and about the roots to their own culture. I believe they would wonder why they had been removed from it, much the same as many of the indigenous people in Canada, the US, Australia, and many other countries felt when they were removed from their families and placed in residential schools. Who are we to decide what is best for another culture?
I believe people should do all they can to aid folks who have suffered a misfortune such as the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, the hurricane in New Orleans, the earthquake in Haiti. But I think it is time we stopped trying to change other people's culture, religion, philosophies or way or living. I know those missionaries in Haiti meant well, but they got caught doing something they shouldn't have been doing. Good intentions ... bad idea.