Negotiations for the lives of missionaries in Haiti have stretched on since the Saturday snatching. A violent gang kidnapped 17 members of a mission group. That gang is demanding $1 million ransom per person. What extreme weather and a presidential assassination haven’t damaged in Haiti, it appears the kidnapping chaos will.
Saturday’s abduction was the largest of its kind reported in recent years. Haitian gangs have grown more brazen as the country tries to recover from the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse (see Haiti President Assassinated) and the earthquake that killed more than 2,200 people.
The abduction is one of at least 119 kidnappings recorded in Haiti for the first half of October, according to the Center of Analysis and Research of Human Rights.
Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries says the group of the missing includes six women, six men, and five children. A Haitian driver was abducted along with the missionaries, bringing the total to 18 people taken by the gang. The children are aged eight months to 15 years. Sixteen are Americans and one is Canadian.
Conservative Mennonite, Amish, and related groups support Christian Aid Ministries. Christian Aid has year-round mission staff in Haiti and several countries. It ships faith-centered, educational, and medical supplies throughout the world.
The missionaries were returning from visiting an orphanage at the time of the abduction.
An official says someone from the 400 Mawozo gang made the ransom demand Saturday. The requirement came in a call to a leader of the mission group shortly after the abduction.
Stealing another human being for financial gain is appalling. Under Old Testament law, kidnappers were often put to death. (Exodus 21) In the New Testament, God condemns kidnappers as lawless and rebellious. (1 Timothy 9) It’s clear that this kind of thievery is something God hates.
The missionaries have worked hard in the country. “This group of workers has been committed to minister throughout poverty-stricken Haiti,” the Ohio group says. An official added that the missionaries worked most recently on a project to help rebuild homes lost in Haiti’s magnitude-7.2 earthquake in August.
“They do a lot for us,” says Haitian Beatrice Jean.
Responding to the recent wave of kidnappings, Haitian workers staged a protest strike. The strike shuttered businesses, schools, and public transportation. The work stoppage was a new blow to Haiti’s weak economy. Unions and other groups vow to continue the shutdown indefinitely.
In a peaceful demonstration Tuesday, dozens of people walked through the streets. They demanded the release of the captives. Some carried signs that read “Free the Americans” and “No to Kidnapping!” Some signs explained that the missionaries help pay bills and build roads and schools.
Meanwhile, the country’s fuel shortage worsened. Businesses blame gangs for blocking roads and gas terminals. On Tuesday, hundreds of motorcycles zoomed through the streets of Port-au-Prince as drivers yelled, “If there’s no fuel, we’re going to burn it all down!”
One protest took place near the prime minister’s residence, where police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd demanding fuel.
In Washington, White House press secretary Jen Psaki reports that the FBI is “part of a coordinated U.S. government effort” to free the missionaries. The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince is coordinating with local officials and the hostages’ families. However, it is longstanding U.S. policy not to negotiate with hostage takers.
“We know these groups target U.S. citizens who they assume have the resources and finances to pay ransoms, even if that is not the case,” Psaki says, adding that the government has urged U.S. citizens not to visit Haiti.
Pray for those kidnapped in Haiti—and for those who kidnapped them, that they might realize the error of their ways.
(Security forces patrol the streets of Croix-des-Bouquets, near Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Tuesday, October 19, 2021. AP/Matias Delacroix)