Earlier this month, 17 missionaries from both the United States and Canada, some of whom were minors, were abducted by a gang in Haiti, according to CNN.
As they were being abducted, an unknown individual sent a cry for help on the messaging app, WhatsApp.
“Please pray for us!!, the message stated. “We are being held hostage, they kidnapped our driver. Pray pray pray. We don’t know where they are taking us.”
Those abducted were members of Christian Aid Ministries, a ministry group based out of Ohio that was founded by Amish and Mennonites that have long worked in the Caribbean.
Following the abduction, the organization spoke up about the events.
“The group of sixteen US citizens and one Canadian citizen includes five men, seven women and five children,” the organization stated.
At the time of their abduction, the missionaries were traveling to the city of Titanyen, which is located north of the capital Port-au-Prince, following a trip to an orphanage in the Croix des Bouquets.
Authorities involved in the investigation have linked 400 Mawozo, a local gang, to the abduction, according to The New York Times.
The gang is responsible for abducting these individuals in a nation that has neared lawlessness as a result of natural disaster, corruption and political assassination.
According to the Washington Post, 400 Mawozo is responsible for abducting members of religious groups, and controlling parts of Ganthier.
The members of this gang are known to abduct groups of people as they ride buses or walk the streets, which is what makes these abductions so concerning is that they happen when the individuals are in a large group, which used to keep people safe from circumstances such as these.
Pierre Espérance, the director of Haiti’s National Human Rights Defense Network, spoke with the Washington Post about the increasing danger of the gangs in Haiti.
“This shows us that no matter who you are, or where you are in Haiti, you are never safe,” Espérance said.
A 42-year-old unnamed businessman who was abducted back in February of this year spoke up about the circumstances that the nation of Haiti is currently facing in an interview with the New York Times.
The man requested to be left unnamed, or referred to only as Norman, to prevent retribution.
“It’s maddening — you try to work for the country, to build something, provide jobs, and they do this to you,‘’ the man said. “Where is this going? Where is this country going? It’s a total mess.”
After 12 days of capture, the man was released for a ransom price of $70,000 — much less than the original $5 million that they originally requested.
One lawmaker, Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, commented on the matter in an interview with CNN.
“We need to track down where they are and see if negotiations without paying ransom are possible or to do whatever we need to on the military front or police front,” Kinzinger said.
The search for these missionaries might not be easy, due to the ongoing problems that Haiti as a nation is facing.
According to the New York Times, the security in Haiti is worsening as a result of the disintegration of the country’s politics and the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse that occurred back in July.
Earlier this month, gangs in Port-au-Prince shot at a school bus, injuring at least five people, and hijacked a public bus.
Luis Henry Mars, an individual who works on peace building projects in Haiti spoke about the violence in an interview with The Guardian.
“There are areas where the police will not go, where it’s a war zone like Vietnam or Afghanistan,” Mars said.
The Center for Analysis and Research for Human Rights, an organization based out of Port-au-Prince, reported that 628 individuals were abducted, including 29 foreigners.
The executive director of the CARDH, Gèdèon Jean spoke on what might be behind the surge in gang-related crimes.
“The motive behind the surge in kidnappings for us is a financial one,” Jean said. “The gangs need money to buy ammunition, to get weapons, to be able to function.”
Hopeful that those abducted will be found, Christian Aid Ministries released a wishful prayer, as reported by NPR.
“We are seeking God’s direction for a resolution, and authorities are seeking ways to help,” stated Christian Aid Ministries. “Join us in praying for those who are being held hostage, the kidnappers, and the families, friends, and churches of those affected. Pray for those who are seeking God’s direction and making decisions regarding this matter.”