By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – Seven Catholic clergy, including two French citizens, were abducted Sunday in Haiti, where kidnappers increasingly target churches, officials said.
The Bishop’s Conference for the island nation, which has been rocked by unrest, said the five priests and two nuns were abducted in the morning in Croix-des-Bouquets, a commune northeast of the capital Port-au-Prince.
In published remarks, spokesman and priest Loudger Mazile said the group was kidnapped while going “to the installation of a new parish priest,” The kidnappers demanded a $1 million ransom for the group, which includes one French priest and one French nun, he added.
Haitian authorities reportedly suspect that armed group “400 Mawozo” — which is active in kidnappings — is behind the abduction.
Kidnappings of church leaders and others for ransom have surged in Haiti, which is still recovering from the 2010 earthquake and faces insecurity.
On April 1, four people, including a pastor and a well-known pianist, were kidnapped while performing live on social media, Facebook, and YouTube.
The group of the Seventh-day Adventist Gospel Kreyòl Ministry Church in Diquini on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince was freed April 4, reportedly for a ransom.
Online daily News784 quoted sources as saying that the kidnappers asked $1 million for the pastor and $500,000 for each of the other abducted members.
Seventh-day Adventists didn’t confirm if or how much ransom was paid but said they had been praying for the release of these and other abducted believers.
Last year in December, Elie Henry, head of the Seventh-day Adventist’s Inter-American division, was also held along with his daughter, a physical therapist. Henry, a Miami-based church leader, and the therapist were released on Christmas Eve allegedly for ransom.
Haitian media said their kidnappers had demanded $5 million for their release, but Adventists declined to confirm or mention a ransom amount.
More than 485,000 Seventh-day Adventists are reportedly still worshiping in 1,129 churches and congregations in Haiti despite violent incidents. The church also operates a hospital, a university, a radio station, and a media center, as well as dozens of primary and secondary schools.
The abductions of Christians come amid a year-long surge of kidnappings on the island nation that Haiti’s government calls a national emergency.
Last year the crisis was underscored when Port-au-Prince high school student Evelyne Sincère was abducted and killed. Her corpse was left in a trash heap on the side of a road after no ransom was paid in time.
Haitian human rights groups say at least four ransom abductions are reported in the country each day. Doctors and nurses have also been targeted, prompting recent protests.
Opponents say the increasingly authoritarian Haitian President Jovenel Moise lost control of the situation — and that Haitian police are often involved with kidnapping gangs. Witnesses reportedly saw kidnappers wearing police uniforms, but Moise and Haiti’s police deny the charges.
Critics accuse Moise of amassing more power in recent months as he has been ruling by presidential decree since he dissolved the majority of Parliament in January 2020.
The opposition claims that Moise’s five-year term ended in February this year, but Moise claims it ends in February 2022 as he wasn’t sworn in until 2017. Before, a provisional president ruled Haiti for one year following chaotic elections marred by allegations of fraud.
Moise pledged to step down in February 2022 and called for legislative and presidential elections in September, followed by a runoff in November.
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