Escalating Violence Affecting Haiti Ministry

Escalating civil violence in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, is directly affecting Chicago-based Bible League’s ministry in the troubled state.

Escalating civil violence in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, is directly affecting a ministry that distributes Scriptures for evangelism, discipleship, and church growth.

“We’re closing the office early every day due to the country’s problems,” said Pierre Philippe, who oversees the Chicago-based Bible League’s ministry in Haiti. “All our vehicles are put away because kidnappers are hijacking cars from people. That’s the worst thing right now—people are being kidnapped for money.”

According the Bible League, the kidnappings are the latest trend in a relentless string of violence and political instability since deposed President, Jean Bertrand Aristide, was removed from office in February 2004. The situation is expected to continue—and possibly worsen—until an elected president takes office in February 2006, ending a two-year transitional period for Haiti’s government.

Foreign diplomats and Haitian authorities estimate that six to 12 kidnappings are occurring in Port-au-Prince every day, according to news reports. One such report said that Haitian officials blame much of the kidnapping on well-armed, pro-Aristide street gangs. However, drug traffickers and others with alleged political motives are also involved. Victims range from wealthy business owners to working-class Haitians. Wealthier Haitians are said to be closing shops and laying off workers before fleeing the capital, which is feeding into the cycle of poverty.

In addition to the kidnappings, Philippe said, there are rapes and murders occurring daily, and armed bandits are burning homes and stores in many towns around Port-au-Prince.

“All these towns are areas of high risk, and they are known as regions where the law does not exist,” he stated.

Currently, the Bible League serves local churches in Haiti and has provided Bibles and New Testaments to more than 72,000 Haitians over the course of last year. Iin 2004, nearly 6,000 people joined local churches, and 55 new churches were established, the Bible League reported.

However, the current situation is impairing the ministry’s ability to share God’s Word. According to the ministry, many Bible League-affiliated pastors and church leaders have been victims of gang violence and kidnappings. Some are leaving their nearly-abandoned communities, while others are left to protect empty churches.

“The presidential election is near, and the closer we get the more violent it gets here,” said Philippe. “But the Lord has been faithful and keeps His promise, and we ask for your prayers for the evangelical Haitian community.”

According to a recent report, Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo authorized today the deployment of 200 additional soldiers to the troubled Caribbean state of Haiti. In her speech at the 107th founding anniversary of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Malacañang, Macapagal-Arroyo said sending of additional forces was part of the country’s “engagement in the world in keeping peace.”