A group of 17 men, women and children who were serving as missionaries in Haiti have been kidnapped by a local gang, according to a statement from Christian Aid Ministries. They were abducted while visiting an orphanage outside of Port-au-Prince on Saturday afternoon.
Political turmoil and the chaos caused by last summer’s earthquake has led to an uptick in crime in the capital city, where organized gangs have wrestled control from local officials. The gang who abducted the missionaries, known as the 400 Mawozo, were also accused of kidnapping a group of priests and nuns earlier this year and holding them for a million dollar ransom. In that case, everyone was eventually safely freed, according to the New York Times. Now, Christian Aid Ministries is asking for prayers that the same holds true for this group of five men, seven women and five children.
Christian Aid Ministries is a 40-year-old organization that “strives to be a trustworthy and efficient channel for Amish, Mennonite, and other conservative Anabaptist groups and individuals to minister to physical and spiritual needs around the world,” according to its website. Since its inception, it’s grown to be one of the largest and most well-funded conservative Anabaptist mission organizations in the world, capable of delivering large quantities of medicine and other relief materials to stricken parts of the world.
But working in Haiti has become more dangerous as gangs have become more powerful and more active. One missionary named Joel Trimble who has worked in Haiti since the 1970s told the Times that the area the 17 missionaries were kidnapped in was known to be unsafe and that traveling there as a large group was “very unwise.”
“Kidnapping is quick money, and when they see a van full of white people, that is major dollar signs,” he said.
The State Department has issued a Level 4 travel advisory Haiti, urging Americans not to travel to the country for fear of “kidnapping, crime, civil unrest and Covid-19.”