On October 15th, 17 Christian missionaries from the Christian Aid Ministries group were kidnapped after returning from a visit to an orphanage in Haiti. The Ohio-based organization reported that the group includes 16 Americans and one Canadian. The gang responsible has been identified as 400 Mawozo, a formerly small gang in the Croix des Bouquets region near the Haitian capital that has almost complete control of the area.
One of this gang’s biggest activities is kidnapping for ransom. In fact, according to the Center for Analysis and Research for Human Rights (CARDH), a non-profit based in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, the number of kidnappings has increased dramatically, with 628 victims in this year alone. 29 were foreigners, such as the most recent case. CARDH believes that 400 Mawozo is likely directly responsible or influential for most of these kidnappings.
Haiti had been dealing with severe criminal gang activity for a long time now, but to understand the complexity of the situation, we need to go back to July 7th, when former Haitian President Jovenel Moise was assassinated in his own home. His death brought more turmoil and political upheaval to an already reeling Haiti, creating the perfect opportunity for gangs to rise up and grow to dangerous new heights. As was so for 400 Mawozo, which brings us back to the current situation.
The FBI is now involved, working in Haiti to rescue the missionaries from 400 Mawozo, but the task will certainly not be easy. Even with all the support that the Haitian government has received from American forces, they will be working on 400 Mawozo’s home turf and need to act accordingly. Christian Aid Ministries have stated the kidnapped group included six women, six men and five children, including a 2-year-old.
A family member of one of the victims, whose name was not disclosed due to privacy reasons, said: “Even though it’s painful and it provokes us to tears that our friends and relatives, our dear brothers and sisters, are suffering right now in a very real physical, mental and emotional way, it is comforting to us that we can bring these heavy burdens to the God that we worship.”
To other Haitians, this event is a rallying cry to get the government to take stronger action against the gangs that are slowly taking over district after district in Haiti. Many protests have already started, “The population cannot take it any more,” said Holin Alexis, a moto taxi driver who joined the strike. The protests, which have now turned destructive, have led to the closing of multiple main streets on the island. The destruction includes burning tires, throwing rocks and heavy stones, and creating barricades for the police force. It seems clear now that the Haitian population is done being abused by gangs and demands that the government do something big about it.