The 400 Mawozo gangs which kidnapped 17 missionaries in Haiti have threatened to kill them unless $1 million is paid for each hostage. The missionaries were kidnapped on Saturday, and they include 12 adults, two 15-year-old teenagers, a 6-year-old, a 3-year-old, and an 8-month-old baby.
The missionaries worked with the Christian Aid Ministries which is based in Ohio, and they include Americans and Canadians.
In a video circulating on social media, the leader of 400 Mawozo, Wilson Joseph, who is popularly known as Lanmo Sanjou, said the hostages will be killed if the government fails to make the payment in record time. Haitian Justice and Interior Minister Liszt Quitel confirmed the authenticity of the video.
Haitian police negotiators and the FBI are working to secure the release of the hostages. Given the poverty levels in Haiti, kidnapping has been on the increase and gangs have been targeting the rich and the poor for ransom. In this year alone, more than 800 people have been kidnapped, and this includes more than 50 foreign nationals and more than 30 children.
“Nowhere is safe for children in Haiti anymore,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF’s regional director. “Criminal gangs are using children as bargaining chips and making money off parents’ love for their children.”
Haiti has also recorded several natural disasters, which included hurricanes and earthquakes. The economy of the country is also very dismal, and the average citizen lives on less than $1 per day. In July, gunmen attacked and killed President Jovenel Moise in what appears to be economic frustration and bad governance.
The families of the 17 kidnapped missionaries said they understand the level of poverty and economic hardship faced by people in Haiti. They said however that they will continue to pray for the safety of their loved ones and the redemption of their abductors. They said people everywhere must show compassion to the kidnappers.
Christian Aid Ministries said they will make no comments yet on the situation.
“We will not comment on the video until those directly involved in obtaining the release of the hostages have determined that comments will not jeopardize the safety and well-being of our staff and family members,” they said.
A French priest who was kidnapped and later released by 400 Mawozo this year, Father Michel Briand, said economic hardships and political inequality are the main drivers of crime and violence in Haiti. Briand has lived for more than 30 years in Haiti and fears that the entire country will be taken hostage except the government works to better the lots of the people.