Search continues for nuns kidnapped in Haiti
PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (CMC) — The Bishop of Anse-à-Veau and Miragoâne, Monsignor Pierre-André Dumas is offering to “become a hostage in their place”, as Pope Francis Sunday called for the release of six religious sisters who were kidnapped here last Friday.
Monsignor Dumas condemned the abduction “with vigour and firmness this final, odious, and barbaric act which does not even respect the dignity of these consecrated women who give themselves wholeheartedly to God to educate and train the young, the most poor and vulnerable in our society”.
In calling for the release of the hostages the senior Roman Catholic Church official said he is ready to “become a hostage in their place”.
The authorities said Monday no information or a ransom demand has been made public regarding the release of the eight people, including six nuns, who were kidnapped here last Friday.
The gunmen are reported to have intercepted a minibus on Avenue du Chili, in downtown Port-au-Prince, taking all the passengers and the driver hostage.
In his Angelus address on Sunday, Pope Francis called for the release of the hostages including the nuns, who are members of the Sisters of St Anne congregation.
“I have learned with sorrow of the kidnapping in Haiti of a group of people, including six religious sisters,” Pope Francis said, adding “in my heartfelt plea for their release I pray for social concord in the country and I invite everyone to bring an end to the violence, which is causing a great deal of suffering to that beloved population”.
The Sisters of St Anne congregation has been present in Haiti for 80 years, serving in the fields of education, catechesis, and human development.
Although the perpetrators have not been described or identified, the nation’s kidnapping epidemic is attributed to gangs that have become emboldened amid the chaos that followed the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.
The non-profit Assessment Capacities Project, which provides data to humanitarian groups, says gangs have taken over about 80 per cent of Port-au-Prince.
Last October the United Nations Security Council voted to send a multinational armed force, led by Kenya, to Haiti to help combat violent gangs, marking the first time in almost 20 years that a force would be deployed to the troubled, French-speaking, Caribbean Community country.
Earlier this month the Belgium-based International Crisis Group (ICG) said the small advance contingent of several hundred Kenyan police due to arrive in Haiti early this year should work with Haitian counterparts to map areas where gangs are dominant, assess their firepower, and understand the threat levels in places where the multinational security support mission (MSS) is expecting to deploy.
“The multinational mission’s deployment in Haiti could bring essential relief to a country mired in strife but bumps in the road ahead pose a major threat to the force’s effectiveness,” the ICG said in a lengthy report.
Haiti has been plunged into socio-economic chaos since President Jovenel Moise’s assassination in July 2021, with criminal gangs frequently using rape to terrorise and extort victims, demand money, and control food supplies.