Priests, women religious among 10 Catholics kidnapped in Haiti
FOLLOWING THE ABDUCTION OF THE PRIESTS AND RELIGIOUS IN HAITI April 11, Catholic clergy and religious are fearful. Bishop Jean Désinord of the Diocese of Hinche, some 70 miles north of the capital of Port-au-Prince, spoke with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “We are wondering who will be next? Will it be me or a brother priest? The priests and religious are truly in danger of psychosis. We are living in constant fear,” the bishop said.
On April 11, five priests, two religious sisters and three other persons were abducted in the town of Croix-des-Bouquets, close to the capital Port-au-Prince. The number of abductions of clergy and religious have increased recently. “Last year, a priest and a sister were abducted. Thanks be to God, they were both freed,” the bishop told ACN. “But there is no quick or easy solution to the problem of such wanton abductions. The Church can only appeal to our political leaders to guarantee law and order.”
It is quite likely that these most recent abductions were simply part of the general lawlessness and banditry that is so widespread in Haiti. “It simply is an easy way of getting money,” the bishop explained. However, he does not entirely exclude a political element in addition to the criminal motives of the kidnappers. It is possible that the Church may have been targeted by some politicians for her criticisms of the current situation. “The Church in Haiti has a prophetic mission. She must denounce the terrible conditions. So it is quite possible that she is a thorn in the side of some of these politicians. But we cannot know for sure,” Bishop Désinord told ACN. “But everybody knows that our politicians make use of criminal gangs to control certain areas. The boundary between organized crime and politics is quite fluid.“
Bishop Désinord expressed gratitude for appeal made by Pope Francis on Easter Sunday. In his Easter address, the Pope recalled the precarious security situation in the island nation and expressed his closeness to its people. “We were very touched by that,” the bishop said. “We were truly surprised that the Holy Father gave so much time to us during his Urbi et Orbi message and mentioned Haiti in so much detail. It is an encouragement to us to know that the Pope is so close to our people.” Bishop Jean is hoping that the Pope‘s appeal will touch Haiti‘s political leaders. “In any case, they can‘t ignore an address that is listened to throughout the world,” he said.
The bishop also appealed to ACN‘s donors to continue to accompany the Haitian people. “Thank you for your closeness and your generosity. ACN is standing by us at this difficult moment in our history. Please continue to support ACN and show us your Christian solidarity.” He also asked for prayer for the bishops of Haiti.
In Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, the security situation has been deteriorating for years. Gang crime and abductions are an everyday occurrence. Additionally, there are grave political tensions between the government and the opposition; back in February, the bishops of Haiti warned of the danger of a “social explosion.”
ACN has been supporting the Church in Haiti in her pastoral and humanitarian mission for years. In 2020 alone, the organization supported more than 30 different projects for a total of more than $650,000. Thanks to the generosity of its donors, ACN was able to fund the purchase and maintenance of vehicles for pastoral transport, COVID 19-related emergency aid—by way of Mass stipends for priests—and educational/formation programs for the laity, catechists and seminarians.