Haitian workers go on strike in wake of missionary kidnapping
Local unions representing Haitian public transportation drivers, schools and other businesses went on strike to protest the nation’s lack of security following the kidnapping of 17 members of a U.S.-based missionary group.
“This strike is our way of saying that we can’t take it anymore,” Diego Toussaint, a Haitian entrepreneur, said to Reuters. “We live in fear.”
Authorities in the U.S. are working with Haitian officials to secure the release of 12 adults and five children from Christian Aid Ministries, an Ohio-based group, who disappeared during a trip to visit an orphanage on Saturday.
The FBI confirmed it was “part of a coordinated U.S. government effort to get the Americans involved to safety.”
State Department spokesperson Ned Price added on Monday that the U.S. had sent a small team to Haiti to search for the missionaries, Reuters reported.
Haitian police said 400 Mawozo gang, a group with a long history of violence, was responsible for the kidnapping. The same gang was allegedly responsible for the kidnapping of five priests and two nuns earlier this year.
The more recent incident involving the missionaries was the largest reported kidnapping in Haiti in recent years, according to the AP.
The kidnapping took place just days after U.S. officials had visited Haiti and promised to allocate resources to Haiti’s National Police. Part of those resources was a commitment of $15 million to help reduce gang violence.
In a statement released on Monday, Christian Aid Ministries said they offered prayers for their 17 workers who were kidnapped.
“Pray that those being held hostage could find strength to demonstrate God’s love. The kidnappers, like all people, are created in the image of God and can be changed if they turn to Him,” the statement read.
A report by the Haitian nonprofit Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights found that kidnappings in Haiti have become more commonplace; at least 638 incidents occurred in the first nine months of 2021 alone, according to Reuters.
The problems in Haiti are increasingly leading to problems in the United States, where the Biden administration has come under criticism for its handling of migrants from the country.
A full-page ad that ran last week in the Washington, D.C., edition of The New York Times criticized Biden’s “cruel asylum policies.” The ad was from a campaign called Welcome With Dignity that advocates for changes to the U.S. asylum system.
“Your cruel asylum policies have human consequences,” the ad said. “Since you took office, there have been at least 6,356 kidnappings, sexual assaults, and other violent attacks against people seeking safety turned away at the border.”
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