Scientologists arrive in force
It has Roman Catholics and voodoo spiritualists, Protestants, Rastafarians, Jews and Baha'is. Now Haiti, a nation brimming with piety, looks set to be endowed with another belief system: the Scientologists say that they are here to stay.
With an operation called "The Volunteer Ministry Disaster Relief for Haiti", the Scientologists plan to establish a permanent base in the country. Pat Harney, a spokesperson for the operation, said: "I have no doubt that in some form or other there will be a church of Scientology here."
Scientologists were already working to found an orphanage, she added.
An advance party arrived nearly two weeks ago but the big moment occurred when the actor John Travolta flew his Boeing 707 from Florida to Port-au-Prince carrying six tonnes of military rations, medical equipment, baby food and nappies, as well as doctors and volunteer ministers. "We have the ability to make a difference in Haiti," he said.
As well as providing more than 100 doctors and basic aid, Scientologists volunteered to work in Haiti's remaining hospitals.
Elena Chiancianesi (39) arrived from Florida to help in the general hospital. "I don't have medical training," she said. "But I'm a mother and whenever children are involved it becomes my problem."
Ms Harney said that the Scientologists were able to offer their own healing method in the hospital and in the clinic established by the University of Miami.
The method, known as "assist" might involve touching parts of the body or asking a patient to stare at a wall. "It's a special Scientology technique developed by Mr Hubbard," said Ms Harney, referring to the science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard, who founded the church in 1954. (© The Times, London)