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Kidnapped missionaries made daring overnight escape in Haiti, group says

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Update (Dec. 20, 2021): In a news conference Monday, Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) revealed the treacherous path 12 of the 17 missionaries who were kidnapped in Haiti had to take to escape. The video above shows clips from the news conference. According to CAM, the missionaries snuck out of where they were being held “despite the fact that numerous guards were close by.”

“In the distance, they could see a mountain feature that they had recognized and they identified in the previous days, they identified this landmark before, and they knew that this is the direction that they needed to go,” Weston Showalter with CAM said Monday. “They also followed the sheer guidance of the stars as they journey through the night traveling towards safety.”

The missionaries walked for hours and covered “possibly as much as 10 miles.”

“Traveling through woods and thickets working through thorns and briars, one of the hostages said and I quote, ‘two hours were through fierce brambles, we were in gang territory the whole hike,'” Showalter said. “After a number of hours of walking, day began to dawn and they eventually found someone who helped to make a phone call for help… they were finally free.”

The 12 were flown to Florida and later reunited with five hostages who were released earlier.

Update (Dec. 16, 2021): Exactly two months after 17 missionaries were kidnapped by a gang in Haiti, Haitian police and the missionary group confirmed all 17 have been freed. The spokesman for Haiti’s National Police did not immediately provide additional details. Christian Aid Ministries said they hoped to provide more information later. The video above shows the scene at the Christian Aid Ministries headquarters in Haiti Thursday.

“We glorify God for answered prayer—the remaining twelve hostages are FREE! Join us in praising God that all seventeen of our loved ones are now safe,” the group said in a statement. “Thank you for your fervent prayers throughout the past two months.”

Update (Nov. 22, 2021): Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) announced in a Sunday news release that two of its 17 missionaries that had been kidnapped in Haiti last month have been freed. CAM described the missionaries as “safe, in good spirits, and being cared for.”

“We cannot provide or confirm the names of those released, the reasons for their release, where they are from, or their current location,” CAM said in the news release. “We ask that those who have more specific information about the release and the individuals involved would safeguard that information.”

Update (Oct. 19, 2021): According to Haiti Justice Minister Liszt Quitel, who spoke to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, the gang who kidnapped 17 missionaries over the weekend has demanded a $17 million ransom for their safe return. This would equate to $1 million per missionary.

Quitel also identified the ages of the five child missionaries kidnapped. They are 8 months, 3 years, 6 years, 14 years, and 15 years old.

Original Story (Oct. 18, 2021): The investigation into the 17 missionaries who were kidnapped in Haiti over the weekend continued Monday. The 17, which included five children, are from the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries. 16 of them are American and the other is Canadian.

“I would like those missionaries, those 17 missionaries, to be released right away,” Girard Mirbel, a Haitian bishop living in Ohio, said over the weekend.

The missionaries were kidnapped in the community of Ganthie, in the Croix-des-Bouquets area east of the Haiti capital of Port-au-Prince. The missionaries were kidnapped while on a trip to visit an orphanage by the ‘400 Mawozo’ gang, a group notorious in Haiti for killings, kidnappings and extortion.

In her daily press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed efforts were ongoing in the U.S. and Haiti to get the kidnapped missionaries back.

“The president has been briefed and is receiving regular updates on what the State Department and the FBI are doing to bring these individuals home safely,” Psaki said. “The FBI is part of a coordinated U.S. government effort to get the U.S. citizens involved to safety.”

Her statement comes a day after the State Department said it was in regular contact with senior authorities in Haiti and would continue to work with them and interagency partners to get the kidnapped missionaries back.

“The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State,” the department said in a statement.

The weekend kidnapping was the largest reported abduction of its kind in recent years. On Monday, thousands of workers in Haiti went on strike due to the lack of security in the country.

Haitian gangs have grown more brazen amid ongoing political instability, a deepening economic crisis and a spike in violence that is driving more people to flee the country. In 2021 alone, Haiti has had to deal with the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, as well as a 7.2 magnitude earthquake followed by then-Tropical Depression Grace. Thousands of Haitians gathered at the U.S.-Mexico border last month, before many were flown back. America’s handling of the situation led to the resignation of the country’s special envoy to Haiti.

“The population cannot take it any more,” Haitian taxi driver Holin Alexis said.

At least 328 kidnapping victims were reported to Haiti’s National Police in the first eight months of 2021, compared with a total of 234 for all of 2020, according to a report issued last month by the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti known as BINUH.

Weston Showalter, Christian Aid Ministries: “After discussing their plans, the group felt they should escape on the night of Wednesday, December 15. They made plans as they could, but ultimately placed their situation in God’s hands, depending on him for protection and guidance. During the night as God directed, they prepare. They put on their shoes. They packed water in their clothes. And they prepared for the journey. They stack their mattresses in a corner, as I understand it, and prepared to leave. When they sense the timing was right, they found a way to open the door that was closed and blocked, filed silently to the path that they have chosen to follow and quickly left the place that they were held despite the fact that numerous guards were close by. In the distance, they could see a mountain feature that they had recognized and they identified in the previous days, they identified this landmark before, and they knew that this is the direction that they needed to go. They also followed the sheer guidance of the stars as they journey through the night traveling towards safety. This group included a married couple, a 10 month old baby, a three year old child, a 14 year old girl, a 15 year old boy, four single men and two single women. With God’s help, protection and leading. They quickly made their way through the night. They walked for plot, possibly as much as 10 miles. It’s a little bit hard to discern exactly how far the distance was, but for many miles. Traveling through woods and thickets working through thorns and briars, one of the hostages said and I quote, ‘two hours were through fierce brambles, we were in gang territory the whole hike.’ The moon provided light for their path. During times they weren’t sure where to go they stopped and what do you think they did? They prayed, God, show us where to go.”

David Troyer, President & Chief Executive Officer at Christian Aid Ministries: “A message to the kidnapers. You cost our hostages and their families a lot of suffering. However, Jesus taught us by word and by his own example that the power of forgiving love is stronger than the hate of violent force. As Jesus himself was being crucified on the cross, he prayed, Father, forgive them where they know not what they do. That’s found in the Gospel of Luke Chapter 23, verse 34. As his children, we cannot otherwise but extend forgiveness to you, talking to the kidnapers again.”

Update (Dec. 20, 2021): In a news conference Monday, Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) revealed the treacherous path 12 of the 17 missionaries who were kidnapped in Haiti had to take to escape. The video above shows clips from the news conference. According to CAM, the missionaries snuck out of where they were being held “despite the fact that numerous guards were close by.”

“In the distance, they could see a mountain feature that they had recognized and they identified in the previous days, they identified this landmark before, and they knew that this is the direction that they needed to go,” Weston Showalter with CAM said Monday. “They also followed the sheer guidance of the stars as they journey through the night traveling towards safety.”

The missionaries walked for hours and covered “possibly as much as 10 miles.”

“Traveling through woods and thickets working through thorns and briars, one of the hostages said and I quote, ‘two hours were through fierce brambles, we were in gang territory the whole hike,'” Showalter said. “After a number of hours of walking, day began to dawn and they eventually found someone who helped to make a phone call for help… they were finally free.”

The 12 were flown to Florida and later reunited with five hostages who were released earlier.

Update (Dec. 16, 2021): Exactly two months after 17 missionaries were kidnapped by a gang in Haiti, Haitian police and the missionary group confirmed all 17 have been freed. The spokesman for Haiti’s National Police did not immediately provide additional details. Christian Aid Ministries said they hoped to provide more information later. The video above shows the scene at the Christian Aid Ministries headquarters in Haiti Thursday.

“We glorify God for answered prayer—the remaining twelve hostages are FREE! Join us in praising God that all seventeen of our loved ones are now safe,” the group said in a statement. “Thank you for your fervent prayers throughout the past two months.”

Update (Nov. 22, 2021): Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) announced in a Sunday news release that two of its 17 missionaries that had been kidnapped in Haiti last month have been freed. CAM described the missionaries as “safe, in good spirits, and being cared for.”

“We cannot provide or confirm the names of those released, the reasons for their release, where they are from, or their current location,” CAM said in the news release. “We ask that those who have more specific information about the release and the individuals involved would safeguard that information.”

Update (Oct. 19, 2021): According to Haiti Justice Minister Liszt Quitel, who spoke to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, the gang who kidnapped 17 missionaries over the weekend has demanded a $17 million ransom for their safe return. This would equate to $1 million per missionary.

Quitel also identified the ages of the five child missionaries kidnapped. They are 8 months, 3 years, 6 years, 14 years, and 15 years old.

Original Story (Oct. 18, 2021): The investigation into the 17 missionaries who were kidnapped in Haiti over the weekend continued Monday. The 17, which included five children, are from the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries. 16 of them are American and the other is Canadian.

“I would like those missionaries, those 17 missionaries, to be released right away,” Girard Mirbel, a Haitian bishop living in Ohio, said over the weekend.

The missionaries were kidnapped in the community of Ganthie, in the Croix-des-Bouquets area east of the Haiti capital of Port-au-Prince. The missionaries were kidnapped while on a trip to visit an orphanage by the ‘400 Mawozo’ gang, a group notorious in Haiti for killings, kidnappings and extortion.

In her daily press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed efforts were ongoing in the U.S. and Haiti to get the kidnapped missionaries back.

“The president has been briefed and is receiving regular updates on what the State Department and the FBI are doing to bring these individuals home safely,” Psaki said. “The FBI is part of a coordinated U.S. government effort to get the U.S. citizens involved to safety.”

Her statement comes a day after the State Department said it was in regular contact with senior authorities in Haiti and would continue to work with them and interagency partners to get the kidnapped missionaries back.

“The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State,” the department said in a statement.

The weekend kidnapping was the largest reported abduction of its kind in recent years. On Monday, thousands of workers in Haiti went on strike due to the lack of security in the country.

Haitian gangs have grown more brazen amid ongoing political instability, a deepening economic crisis and a spike in violence that is driving more people to flee the country. In 2021 alone, Haiti has had to deal with the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, as well as a 7.2 magnitude earthquake followed by then-Tropical Depression Grace. Thousands of Haitians gathered at the U.S.-Mexico border last month, before many were flown back. America’s handling of the situation led to the resignation of the country’s special envoy to Haiti.

“The population cannot take it any more,” Haitian taxi driver Holin Alexis said.

At least 328 kidnapping victims were reported to Haiti’s National Police in the first eight months of 2021, compared with a total of 234 for all of 2020, according to a report issued last month by the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti known as BINUH.

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