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Unreached People Group Communities

As a follow-up on the ethNYcity people profiles below, we have identified 69 unreached/least-reached people group communities in Metro New York. These communities are often “hidden” from Christian interaction and engagement. Please consider printing off the .pdf version and regularly praying for these communities in your home, small group, or church. 69 Most Significant Unreached People Group Communities in Metro New York. For more information on regularly praying for specific people group communities, visit globalgates.info/prayer.

The ethNYcity people profiles below (and on our app and widgets) feature the most significant ethnic groups in Metro New York. As a result, not all of these are unreached, but the ones that have a significant Christian presence can play a vital role in reaching out to unreached peoples in Metro New York.

People Profiles

Haitians in Metro New York

Place of Origin: Haiti
Location in Metro New York: Brooklyn (Flatbush, Flatlands-Canarsie); Queens (Alden Manor, North Valley Stream, Bellaire, Hollis); Rockland Hillcrest, Spring Valley); New Jersey (Irvington); Nassau (New Cassel)
Population in Metro New York: 500,000 (Community Estimate); 243,152 (ACS 2010 Total Ancestry Reported); 168,746 (ACS 2010 Born in Haiti)
Population in New York City: 128,422 (ACS 2010 Total Ancestry Reported); 92,286 (ACS 2010 Born in Haiti)
Primary Religion: Christianity (Roman Catholic, Catholicism syncretized with voodoo)
Secondary Religion: Christianity (evangelical, Roman Catholic)
Status of Christian Witness: Greater than or equal to 10% evangelical.
Primary Languages: Haitian Creole, French, English

Bio: Said to be inspired by voodoo and armed with magical weapons, an army of slaves revolted, won their independence from France in 1804, and made Haiti the first black-ruled country in the Americas. A couple of centuries later, voodoo still retains an influence over Haiti and the Haitian diaspora. Among the estimated 500 thousand Haitians in Metro New York, hundreds of manbos (voodoo priestesses) and houngans (voodoo priests) service a community that longs for stability, financial success, health, luck, and happiness—all of which have been hard to come by in their home country of Haiti, as well as in America. Through voodoo, many Haitians seek the protection and prosperity they long for by marrying themselves to spirits called Iwa. In a typical voodoo marriage ceremony, a small crowd gathers in an inconspicuous place like a Brooklyn townhome basement and offer food that pleases the “special guest” of the party as they conjure the Iwa through a mix of incantations, Catholic songs, and prayers. When the atmosphere is properly “heated up,” an Iwa comes and possesses the manbo, houngan, or another guest. The Iwa then “rides” the human, taking over the person’s voice, words, and behavior. In describing her marriage to the Iwa Danbala, ethnographer Karen Brown explains that Danbala chose to possess the manbo’s young male relative. The young man fell to the ground, wiggling and hissing like a snake. After biting into an offering of raw egg, Danbala slid a coiled serpent wedding ring onto Brown’s finger and, shortly after, the two signed a marriage contract. Brown would honor Danbala, and Danbala would protect and guide Brown. Although a vibrant evangelical Christian community certainly exists, many Haitians, in a city characterized by loneliness, have trusted in Iwa to provide security and companionship.

When Did They Come to New York? Of the forty-nine countries listed by the UN as “least developed,” Haiti is the only one located in the Western Hemisphere. The chaos of government and economics in Haiti throughout the latter half of the twentieth century has literally brought “boatloads” of Haitians into America. From the professionals and politicians who arrived during the autocratic rule of François “Papa Doc” Duvalier (1957-1971), to the poorer “boat people” who arrived in Florida and then New York during the reign of “Baby Doc” Duvalier (1971-1986), Haitians have desperately “rowed” their way to economic and political respite. The 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti will only increase Haitian immigration in the days ahead, legally or illegally.

Where Do They Live? Beginning with the first large wave of Haitian immigrants to New York, the Caribbean neighborhood of Flatbush, Brooklyn, has been the heart of the Haitian community. Irvington-Orange, New Jersey, and the area northeast of JFK Airport also have large concentrations of Haitians.

What Do They Believe? Concerning Haitian religion, a common joke claims that one hundred percent of Haitians have a Catholic or Protestant identity, but one hundred percent serve the voodoo spirits. Even in the CIA World Factbook entry on Haiti, Haitians are listed as eighty percent Catholic and 16 percent Protestant, yet a special note claims that “half of the population practices voodoo.” In New York, however, evangelicals are on the rise. Boasting some of the most successful church planting ministries in Metro New York, Haitian evangelicals have started churches throughout the Metro area and have led many of their people to place hope for security and companionship in Jesus Christ.

What Are Their Lives Like? No matter where their religious loyalties lie, religion plays a vital role in Haitian life. Many first-generation nurses, nannies, store owners, taxi drivers, and professionals worry that their children are losing Haitian culture and identifying themselves more as African- Americans.

Significant Notes:

  • Over 30% of the Haiti-born in the United States live in the New York Metro area.
  • The largest Haitian religious activity in North America takes place every year on July 15th and 16th as thousands of Haitians make a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (East Harlem) in honor of the \"Miracle Virgin.\" Voodoo practices are also mixed in with the Catholic festivities.
  • The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is the largest evangelical denomination in the United States, and the largest SBC church in New York City is the French Speaking Baptist Church of Brooklyn, which is Haitian.

How To Pray: Practitioners of voodoo correlate Catholic saints with voodoo Iwa in a syncretistic Catholicism that pervades Haitian life. Pray that, instead, Haitians would wed themselves to truth in Christ.