A Prophetess Offers Hope for Quake-Ravaged Haitians

  • Share
  • Read Later

Junon Brutus speaks at a prayer rally on the Champ Mars on February 12.

People in Port-au-Prince call Junon Brutus "Soeur Junon" (Sister Junon), describing her as a prophet and a messenger from God. Her crowning moment thus far came on Feb. 12, when Brutus, 42, stepped center stage to face thousands of arms waving in unison, reminiscent of the pulsating energy during Carnival performances. The gathering was not a celebration but a lamentation marking the one-month anniversary of Haiti's earthquake — a disaster that many in Haiti believe Brutus predicted. But she thinks her country can rise from its travails. "God always has a plan for his children. God has a special plan for us," says Brutus, whose Haitian Creole is sometimes interrupted with a word in English.

Brutus, who is Haitian American, officially resides in Orlando, Fla. She left Haiti when she was 11 years old and says she returned to deliver God's message. In January 2007, she says, she heard the voice of God reveal to her that a disaster would hit Haiti and that she was to warn the Haitian people. She then began to aggressively try to speak with Haitian President René Préval. She says she was dismissed repeatedly. "He wouldn't see me," Brutus tells TIME. "No one believed me, and they thought I was a loony."

But with the estimated 200,000-plus dead, the government and the people of Haiti are now taking her seriously. To mark the quake's one-month anniversary, she asked for three days of fasting, which she said God wanted Haitians to complete as an offering of repentance. The Haitian government accepted her request and decided to add an extra day of holiday during a time typically filled with the bustling Compas music of Carnival. And the man who once turned her away came to pay homage.

In a starch-white shirt with bodyguards enveloping him, Préval arrived at Champs de Mars and shared the stage with Brutus. He addressed the thousands of camp settlers and participants and said he shared the Haitian people's personal loss and grief. "It's not a President who's speaking before you, but a father who has lost a child," said Préval. "On Jan. 12, I was walking on bodies in the streets, and I didn't have words to speak." Indeed, Préval's stunned, almost speechless reaction to the earthquake brought much criticism.

With intermittent applause after his statement, Préval's rare address to the people was followed by a prayer from Brutus. It was the sort of blessing the President needs during a time when small protests against the government are sprouting on the streets with chants of "Down with Préval." "If [former President Jean-Bertrand] Aristide were here, he would have listened to her the first time she brought the message. The country would not be in the state that it is now," says Toussaint Makenzine, 29, who sits outside a rainbow-colored dollhouse-like home with two pictures of Aristide, who lives in exile in South Africa, nailed above the front door.

But politics is not what interests Brutus, a married mother of three. She says she holds no ill will toward Préval and hopes that this time the government will listen to what she calls "God's plan for Haiti." She has a notebook full of plans and drawings of a new Haiti, all created through what she calls "intelligent design." Brutus, a Seventh-Day Adventist who works in Miami as a businesswoman, says she has to wait for God's permission to reveal the plans in detail. "Haiti will be a light in the world. What needs to be done, not a human can do it," she says. "There will be seven years of abundance, and Haiti will be a world wonder." Brutus says this message is not just for Haitians today but for their descendants as well, as the diaspora will end and Haitians will return to rebuild their nation.

Of course, there are skeptics who regard Brutus as a fraud. But she denies any worldly ambitions, insisting she is not associated with any specific organization or political party but is merely a servant of God. Judging by her growing name recognition on the streets of Port-au-Prince, the Haitian masses are being drawn to her message. "Soeur Junon is a prophet. When she says something, you feel it," says Damis Yves, 28. Since the one-month anniversary, Brutus has been making daily rounds of comforting the living. Haitian Evangelical pastor Enesse Joseph, host of a religious program on Radio Lumière, says Brutus continues to offer hope to her listeners as well as herself. "She's a visionary. She's bringing a message that I don't have to verify," says Joseph. "She came with the word of God. So why shouldn't I believe?"

Even self-proclaimed non-religious people like Wudeluene Voltaire, 25, are being caught up in the fervor. Voltaire says she decided to participate in the three days of fasting because she wanted God's forgiveness. Dressed in a neat bright-pink top, she points to the concrete slab where she sleeps and says she still has hope for a better Haiti because of Brutus' message. "I believe God sent her on a mission," says Voltaire. "Haiti will get better with her plan."