(Photo: AP Photo / Ramon Espinosa)
A ten-member team of Baptist church members from the United States was arrested in Haiti Saturday after trying to take dozens of children out of the quake-devastated country and into the Dominican Republic.
The group, which mostly includes church members from Idaho, was arrested for reportedly lacking the proper documents as they were taking children aged 2 months to 12 years to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic as part of a "Haitian orphan rescue mission."
The team had traveled to Haiti to help rescue children from one or more orphanages that had been devastated in the 7.0-magnitude earthquake on Jan. 12, according to an announcement featured in the websites of Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, and Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho.
“The children were being taken to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic where they could be cared for and have their medical and emotional needs attended to,” the churches announced Saturday.
“Our team was falsely arrested today and we are doing everything we can from this end to clear up the misunderstanding that has occurred in Port au Prince,” they added.
Though the spokesman for the group, Laura Silsby, told The Associated Press that they received the children from Haitian pastor Jean Sanbil of the Sharing Jesus Ministries, the ministry spearheading the operation had reported prior to the arrests that its plan was to drive a bus from Santo Domingo, Haiti, into Port au Prince “and gather 100 orphans from the streets and collapsed orphanages, then return to the DR.”
“NLCR is in the process of buying land and building an orphanage, school and church in Magante on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic,” reported New Life Children’s Refuge, which Silsby founded and serves as executive director for.
“Given the urgent needs from this earthquake, God has laid upon our hearts the need to go now vs. waiting until the permanent facility is built,” it added.
Furthermore, while the group listed as a prayer request “favor with the Dominican Government in allowing us to bring as many orphans as we can into the DR,” there was no mention of the Haitian government, which has suspended adoptions amid fears that parentless or lost children are more vulnerable than ever to child trafficking following this month’s quake.
To date, Haiti’s 7.0-magnititude quake has left an estimated 200,000 dead throughout the country. An estimated 1 million people, meanwhile, are said to be homeless.
According to NLCR, the team in Haiti was planning to bring the children they picked up to a 45-room hotel in Cabarete that they are converting into an orphanage until the one they are building is complete.
Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States.