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Christian Aid Ministries: What we know about Ohio-based kidnapped missionaries in Haiti
Akron Beacon Journal - 10/25/2021
An Ohio-based missionary group is asking for prayer as a Haiti gang that has captured aid workers from the group has threatened to kill them unless they receive a $17 million ransom.
The workers were traveling after helping to build an orphanage when they were abducted.
The leader of the 400 Mawozo gang that police say is holding 17 missionaries and family members working with Holmes County-based Christin Aid Ministries, Wilson Joseph, was seen in a video released Thursday saying he will kill them if he doesn't get what he's demanding.
"I swear by thunder that if I don't get what I'm asking for, I will put a bullet in the heads of these Americans," he said in the video.
What are Christian Aid Ministries officials saying?
Earlier in the day before the video was released, Weston Showalter, a spokesman for Holmes County-based Christian Aid Ministries addressed the media and shared a letter from families of the hostage victims.
He said the families involved belong to Amish, Mennonite and other conservative Anabaptist communities, and those kidnapped are from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Oregon, Michigan, Tennessee and Ontario.
"They continue to ban together and support each other with prayers and encouragement during this difficult time," Showalter said. "It's amazing how times of difficulty have a way of bringing people together."
According to a Friday story in the New York Times, "a senior security official in the region with knowledge of the kidnapping said that so far, none of the captives had been harmed. Christian Aid Ministries is currently gathering the ransom money, the official added."
What a neighbor is saying
James Beachy, 59, of Millersburg, held Sunday church in his large vinyl-sided garage near the Christian Aid Ministries building. He said he's not a minister, but he lets his church pray from the New Testament inside his garage each Sunday.
None of the 39 families he worships with have family kidnapped in Haiti, he said.
His family and others volunteer at Christian Aid Ministries, sorting clothes or funneling donations.
"They do a great job in Haiti and third world countries to help people over there and also the natural disasters," he said. "We're just glad to be a part of people who can help."
Haiti kidnappings: Gang danger everywhere: Haiti native shares family's own kidnapping story
Kidnappings common in Haiti
At least 119 kidnappings were recorded in Haiti for the first half of October, according to the Center of Analysis and Research of Human Rights, a local nonprofit group.
Why is this the case?
It's because gang violence has changed the experience for missionaries who visit Haiti.
What once was an open and welcoming country has become more dangerous for outsiders — even those trying to help.
That's according to Dr. Tracey Herstich, a pediatric nurse practitioner who has been to the Caribbean country multiple times over the past decade.
"When I first started going in 2011, they were still in disaster mode, even though it had been a year and a half since the earthquakes, because of the lack of infrastructure in the country," said Herstich, a professor of pediatrics and global health at Walsh University in North Canton.
"The climate was open and welcoming to people coming to help at that time, because they knew they needed the help. That has shifted in the last couple of years because of gang-related violence."
Who is Wilson Joseph?
Joseph is the alleged leader of the 400 Mawozo gang. In Thursday's video, he blamed national police chief Leon Charles for the death of fellow gang members after police responded to ttack on a Haiti business.
Why area groups have delayed help in Haiti
Christian Aid Ministries had resumed mission work in Haiti in 2020 after staying away for nine months because of gang violence and political unrest.
The same unrest interrupted an Akron-based medical mission.
Since the island was hit with a 7.0-magnitude earthquake in 2010, health professionals from Akron Children's have regularly visited St. Damien Hospital outside of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, to perform life-saving heart surgeries on Haitian children.
Those visits came to an abrupt halt in 2019.
That's the year the Children's team left halfway through its trip to St. Damien, leaving behind over half a dozen children who were scheduled to receive operations from them. The reason? Not enough supplies, such as blood from the local Red Cross, and the civil unrest that still plagues the country.
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