For the chaos and kidnappings in Haiti, the religious stop their work


A year after the kidnapping of 17 American missionaries in Haiti Beginning a two-month ordeal before their final release, the agency that sent them did not return permanently, and several other international groups also reduced their work there.

The kidnapping highlighted a deteriorating security situation that has worsened over the past year, with Haitian leaders calling for the deployment of foreign troops to help break a crippling grip on gang activity and protests. .

The missionary group, which includes five minors ranging from babies to teenagers, was abducted on October 16, 2021 while returning from a visit to an orphanage supported by their organization, Christian Aid Ministries.

It was the largest such kidnapping in recent years, although hundreds of kidnappings have targeted Haitian citizens and attracted little international attention.

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The kidnappers of the notorious 400 Mawozo gang demanded a $1 million ransom for each victim, according to CAM. After two were released on medical grounds and three others were bailed out by a third party for an undisclosed amount, the other 12 were released on December 16 after what they described as an overnight escape.

Basic supplies such as fuel and water have now dwindled since a powerful gang took control of a major fuel terminal in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Demonstrators blocked roads to protest against rising fuel prices, and gas stations and schools were closed.

Some North American FAO workers have visited Haiti last year, “controlling things however they can,” spokesman Weston Showalter said. But there is no timetable for a permanent return.

“It seems that things are more difficult there than ever,” he said, adding that the work of Haitian staff is also hampered by the crisis.

The kidnapped missionaries included 16 Americans and one Canadian. Christian Aid Ministries, based in Berlin, Ohio, enjoys the support of conservative Mennonite, Amish, Brethren and Allied groups. The agency, which has worked in Haiti since the 1980s, weighs the lessons for 2021.

“We’ve become hypersensitive to risk,” Showalter said. “So especially the issue of the presence of women and children there, I would say that’s a big talking point.”

Other faith-based bodies are also struggling to respond to Haiti’s plight.

“There is no clear path to follow,” said Alex Morse, Deputy Regional Manager for Latin America and the Caribbean of Church World Service, an association of more than 30 Christian denominations and communions in the United States that provides development assistance and disaster relief worldwide.

From August, CWS has decided to exploit its remaining programs in Haiti with only local staff: agriculture and food security programs in the North West, housing construction and social support for children in the South West.

Morse worked in the country after a devastating earthquake in 2011 and recalls that many Haitians found resilience in their faith in God.

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It’s different now.

“I hear people say they’ve lost hope,” he said. “People who turned quickly to their faith, we hear less about.”

Patrick Nelson, a Haitian who is the main CWS representative in the country, said children and students “want to be in school and studying right now, taking courses, but schools and universities are closed.” .

However, he said people are discouraged but not desperate.

“If people didn’t have faith in God or hope things could be different in Haiti, they wouldn’t be on the streets demanding change,” Nelson said via email.

One of CFS Members it is the Church of the Brothers, which has offered programs for more than 20 years in Haiti and has 30 congregations there. It had a main base in Croix-des-Bouquets, near Port-au-Prince, but the area has been an epicenter of gang activity, according to Jeffrey Boshart, director of the church’s World Food Initiative.

Earlier this year, one of the program’s drivers was abducted and later released, and his vehicle was stolen, said Boshart, what he tookor the church to suspend all activities in the Port-to the Prince. The remaining programs, involving agriculture, drinking water and housing construction, are mostly in rural areas far from the capital and are entirely made up of Haitians, he added.

Boshart said the church also scaled back a mobile medical clinic program because several of the Haitian doctors who attended fled to the United States.

Catholic Relief Services has more than 200 staff in the country, almost all of whom are Haitians, but for the most part they have worked remote. Many of his accomplishments educational and medical care is suspended.

“The roads are blocked and they cannot take the road to get to the office,” said Akim Kikonda, a CRS representative at the country. “There is no gas to drive their cars and in some cases there is no internet in the office.

He added: “You can imagine our frustration…when we see the needs are greater than ever, but we can’t meet those needs.”

He hopes that international fans will support Haiti.

“Haiti has been close to the edge many times and has always been able to come back,” Kikonda said. “This time I see a very difficult and challenging situation, I hope there is light, but personally I can’t see it yet.”

Living Waters for the World, a non-profit organization based in UNITED STATES which provides drinking water systems to many countries, was able to continue its work in Haiti because much of the work is done by Haitians, said Bob McCoymoderator of its Haiti network coordination team.

International visits continue, albeit carefully planned.

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“The kidnapping was a very unfortunate situation,” McCoy said. “Do we care? your bet We try to stay smart about what we do. This does not stop our march.

Meanwhile, a new book published by CAM gives an official account of the kidnapping and includes interviews with the hostages, their families and CAM officials.

“Kidnapped in Haiti”, written by Katrina Hoover Lilyreveals that while CAM had long had a no-bailout policy, board members weren’t as committed to it as they thought in the face of a real crisis.

In internal discussions, the book says, some have asked, “Was it wise to risk human lives for a subject that was not stated in the scriptures?”

The ministry eventually agreed to offer the kidnappers humanitarian aid, which they refused. He then reluctantly accepted a third party’s offer to pay the ransom.

Showalter said CAM “still has no details on who paid or how much was included.” The rescue took place in December and they were told the hostages that everything they would be released. But they said that due to internal gang disputes, the kidnappers only released three.

The remaining hostages prayed and worshiped together daily. They also debated intensely whether to try to escape. Eventually, they all agreed to try. According to their accounts, they opened a barricaded door after midnight on December 16 and traveled miles to safety.

Showalter said the ministry was continuing its work in other countries and would consider returning to Haiti.

one of the old hostages, dale wideman, come back in the field of the mission for a stay in Liberia, where CAM provides medical clinics.

His experience in Haiti motivated him to help others. “It just reminded me of how much I was given growing up in Canada in a good, solid home,” said Wideman, of Moorefield, Ont. remember poverty extreme in Haiti, with many young people who join gangs “looking for every possible way to conseguir food and earn a few dollars.

“I’d love to say I wouldn’t be making these decisions if I was in his situation, but I have no idea,” Wideman, 25, said. “Our worlds are very different. I feel What should I repay?

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