Catholics in Haiti are calling for protection after another church service suffered a kidnapping attack as abductions and insecurity in the Caribbean nation are at an all-time high.
The Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince says that on April 13, armed men broke in during a mass at Saint Charbel Oratory in Port-au-Prince officiated by Archbishop Max Leroy Mesidora, kidnapping multiple people. Two men were injured in the attack, both of whom required hospitalization.
"This act of kidnapping is one too many, undermining both the integrity of a sacred place of worship and the freedom of movement of people in the country," Mesidor said in a statement shared by Vatican News and Haiti Libre.
"The Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince once again expresses its indignation at such acts, which spare no one and respect no place; in this sense, it demands that the State authorities finally guarantee the security of lives and property, and that they prosecute and condemn those who operate the kidnapping industry and profit from it."
"God wants his children to be free and not to be oppressed or treated as slaves. God is the helper of His people. May He be gracious to us, bless us, and save us," he prayed.
Amid rising insecurity that saw the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021, kidnappings have increased by 173% since 2021. According to an early April report from the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights, 389 kidnappings were recorded in Haiti in the first three months of 2023.
The group surmises that part of the blame could be on alliances formed between gangs seeking to expand territory and a growing "kidnapping industry."
Weeks before the American missionaries were kidnapped, another American, Pastor Jean Pierre Ferrer Michel, was abducted along with Isabelle Devendegis and Norman Weiner in front of the Jesus Center Church of Delmas 29. Although the female congregant was initially released, Michel and Weiner were released weeks later after ransom was reportedly paid.
In February, Father Antoine Macaire Christian Noah of the Claretian Missionaries' Independent Delegation for the Antilles was reportedly kidnapped 20 miles north of Port-au-Prince while traveling to his missionary community in Kazal, according to Catholic News Agency.
Father Jean-Yves Médidor was kidnapped on March 11 while leaving his home. After 10 days of captivity, he escaped, according to Aid to the Church in Need.
Italian Sister Luisa Dell'Orto, 64, a nun from the Little Sisters of the Gospel, was killed during a June 2022 robbery. Pope Francis hailed her as a martyr.
"We witnessed an unprecedented level of violence between gangs, the murder of President Jovenal Moïse, another earthquake — the second in a decade — that killed 2,500 people, a health system that is on the verge of collapse and dramatic levels of food insecurity," Sister Marjorie Boursiquot told Aid to the Church in Need.
"Everyone, somehow, is a victim of this situation. There have been cases of kidnappings in the Church," Boursiquot added, citing the case of Dell'Orto.
"Here was a sister who really gave all of herself during 20 years of service to the poor children in one of the slums of the capital. Her death was a shock to us all."
The rise of kidnappings comes as millions suffer from malnutrition and hunger.
Save the Children reports that "nearly half the population, including 1.9 million children," are classified as "acutely food insecure."
The violence has forced the temporary closure of the Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) charity hospital in Cité Soleil because of an inability to guarantee the safety of patients and staff.
"We are looking at a war scene just meters away from our hospital," Vincent Harris, MSF medical advisor, said in a March statement. "While the hospital has not been targeted, we are a collateral victim of the fighting, since the hospital is right on the frontline of the fighting. ... We realize that closing the hospital will have a serious impact on the people of Cité Soleil, but our teams cannot work until security conditions are guaranteed."
Nicole Alcindor is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: email@example.com.