The U.S. State Department urged Americans to “depart Haiti now” before not even the government is able to help them leave as widespread fuel shortages triggered by growing violence in the Caribbean nation continued while 17 missionaries, including 16 Americans, were still being held hostage by a local gang demanding a $17 million ransom.
“The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to make plans to depart Haiti now via commercial means. U.S. citizens should carefully consider the risks of traveling to or remaining in Haiti in light of the current security situation and infrastructure challenges,” a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Haiti said Wednesday.
“Widespread fuel shortages may limit essential services in an emergency, including access to banks, money transfers, urgent medical care, internet and telecommunications, and public and private transportation options. The U.S. Embassy is unlikely to be able to assist U.S. citizens in Haiti with departure if commercial options become unavailable,” the government warned. “Seats on commercial flights currently remain available.”
The Evangelical Theological Seminary of Port-au-Prince said its student coordinator, identified as Pastor Stanis Stifinson, was traveling home through Croix-des-Bouquets with his family Saturday when their vehicle was attacked by gunmen. One of his children was killed in the attack while the pastor and his older son are recovering from gunshot wounds, the Miami Herald reported.
“A group of the large family of the UEBH met [on Nov. 8] at the STEP extension campus for a special moment of prayer. We have interceded before God for the country that is plunging into unprecedented instability, for the victims of atrocities that Haitian families know, and especially for the family of the Step Student Affairs Coordinator,” the seminary wrote in a statement on its Facebook page Monday. “The latter and his entire family were victims of an armed attack while they were returning home.”
The attack on the pastor and his family comes some three weeks after 16 American missionaries, one Canadian and a local driver working with the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries were kidnapped by the 400 Mawozo gang.
It also comes just days after the United Nations urged its employees to stock up on emergency supplies on Oct. 28.
“The U.N. can confirm that a message was sent to all U.N. staff on [Oct. 28] strongly advising them, due to the prevailing security and fuel situation, to stock at least 14 days of emergency supplies of water, food and necessities,” Daniel Dickinson, a spokesperson for the U.N.’s political office in Port-au-Prince, told The Miami Herald. “This advice is in line with the U.N.’s security and contingency planning.”
Officials at Christian Aid Ministries who continue to pray for the safe return of their workers said earlier that nearly half the country is now “under the control of gangs.” They also urged prayers for the millions of Haitians trapped in the ongoing upheaval.
“The kidnapping took place on October 16 and we are still waiting and praying for the group of 17 to be released, if God so wills. We request continued prayer for the kidnappers, that God would soften their hearts and that they would experience His love and goodness,” CAM wrote in a statement Wednesday. “As you pray, remember the millions of Haitians who are suffering through a time of serious upheaval and unrest. We desire that God would be their ‘refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’ Psalm 46:1.”