On January 26, 2019 the FBI joined other federal law enforcement agencies in announcing that they were working with Haitian authorities to investigate a kidnapping case involving two missing Americans. The group was heading down from an orphanage when their car broke down and it has not been seen since then.
The “kidnapped girl found” is a headline that made headlines in the news recently. The FBI has pledged to help investigate the kidnapping of two missionaries in Haiti.
BERLIN, Ohio (AP) – According to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, the FBI would assist Haitian authorities in investigating the mass abduction of a group of American and Canadian missionaries and attempting to negotiate their release.
President Biden has been informed on the abduction, which Haitian authorities believe was carried out by a group known as 400 Mawozo, and is getting daily updates on attempts to liberate them, according to her.
Ms. Psaki told reporters Monday that the FBI is part of a concerted US government effort to get US individuals interested in safety. “We’re not going to go into too much information on that due to operational reasons,” she says, “but we can confirm their participation.”
Ms. Psaki went on to say that the US Embassy in Port-au-Prince is cooperating with local authorities and assisting the affected families. She cited privacy concerns as a reason for withholding information about the people and their identities.
Liszt Quitel, Haiti’s Minister of Justice and Public Security, said Monday that talks with the group that kidnapped the missionaries were still on, with the support of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He said he had no idea how much money the kidnappers wanted.
Christian Aid Ministries’ offices in Berlin, Ohio, on Monday.
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL/KRIS MAHER/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
According to Haitian police, armed gunmen pulled their minibus off the road in an eastern neighborhood of Port-au-Prince on Saturday, abducting 16 Americans and one Canadian with Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries. According to the organization, five children were among those taken.
Kidnappings in the poor country, especially those targeting foreigners, have increased in recent months as a result of the political turmoil after President Jovenel Mose’s killing in July. Gangs are gaining control of a growing portion of the chronically unstable nation.
Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, came to a halt on Monday when a national transportation union called a strike, which was backed by everyone from bank workers to human rights groups, to protest an increase in kidnappings and a lack of security.
Schools, banks, restaurants, and supermarkets were shuttered, and neighboring roads were blocked by union members and regular civilians furious over the violence, according to Haitians in the city.
The transportation union’s chairman, Changeux Mehu, said the walkout may continue on Tuesday to put pressure on Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s administration to improve security.
“If the prime minister fails to meet our requests, we will demand that he resign,” Mr. Mehu stated. “We want to put a stop to insecurity and kidnappings.”
According to Haitian police, the 400 Mawozo gang has shifted its focus to abduction for ransom in recent months. It abducted five priests and two nuns earlier this year, including two French citizens, and detained them for three weeks before releasing them. It’s unclear if the ransom was paid.
According to Gédéon Jean of the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights, a Port-au-Prince-based organization that tracks kidnappings in Haiti, Mawozo means “from the countryside” in Haitian Creole, reflecting the gang’s roots in the eastern district of Croix-des-Bouquets, where they began their activities by stealing cattle before moving on to car theft and, more recently, kidnappings for ransom.
As a consequence of the abduction of Christian Aid Ministries missionaries in Haiti, the organization’s offices were shuttered on Monday.
Associated Press photo/Julie Carr Smyth
The Amish and Mennonite-founded Christian organization said in a statement on Monday that Haitian and American authorities were aware of the issue and were trying to fix it. “We continue to keep a close eye on the situation and are praying fervently,” it stated.
The lobby doors were locked Monday at the group’s headquarters in Berlin, Ohio, amid a scenic area of farmland and Amish stores catering to visitors, and a notice saying it was closed as a consequence of the abduction and asked for prayers.
Wanda Cross, a 24-year-old Mennonite from Minerva, Ohio, presented donated clothing to Christian Aid Ministries on Monday.
Ms. Cross, who was born in Haiti and adopted by a Mennonite family in the United States, said she was surprised to hear of the kidnappings and that one couple from Oregon was familiar to her.
“It’s awful, really sad,” she expressed her feelings. “I simply want to go there and speak to these gangs,” she says.
Ms. Cross said she returned to her origin country in April at a period of relative calm amid the country’s instability to meet her biological mother and visit a school. She claimed she heard about kidnappings in the same regions of Haiti that she had visited two days after returning to the United States in April.
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According to officials in the local Amish and Mennonite communities, the bulk of those on board the bus were from other Mennonite villages throughout the nation, despite the fact that Christian Aid Ministry is situated in Berlin. One is thought to come from southern Ontario, Canada, where the Mennonite population is considerable.
According to Marcus Yoder, executive director of the Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center in Berlin, all of the abduction victims are Mennonites, not Amish.
Many of the values shared by Mennonites and Amish are similar, such as adult baptism, simplicity, and following Jesus’ teachings, however Mennonites drive automobiles and have electricity in their houses, whilst Amish do not.
According to Steve Nolt, senior scholar and professor of history at the Young Center at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pa., the Christian Aid Ministry began as an informal charity in 1981, shipping Christmas bundles and other items to Christians in Eastern Europe, and later evolved into a formal organization called Christian Aid to Romania, which focused on sending items to Romanian orphanages.
Christian Aid to Romania began sending funds to Nicaragua and Haiti in early 1988, based on Amish-Mennonite mission relationships in those two countries, and then to Liberia, he claimed. After then, the name of the organization was changed from Christian Aid to Romania to Christian Aid Ministries.
According to Dr. Nolt, Haiti is one of roughly a dozen nations where Christian Aid Ministries has expatriate employees working with local partners all year. He noted that although there are multiple Mennonite organizations working in Haiti, they prefer to operate individually, communicating with local authorities rather than with other Mennonite groups.
—This piece was co-written by Sabina Siddiqui in Washington, D.C., and Juan Montes in Mexico City.
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