(CMC) – Gunmen in Haiti on Sunday reportedly kidnapped three worshippers of a church whose pastor was shot and killed in September 2021 during another abduction attempt.
The Haitian authorities said the three parishioners were preparing to return home after the 6:30am service at the First Baptist Church of Port-au-Prince, located near the National Palace— the official residence of the head of state— when they were kidnapped by heavily armed individuals.
The latest kidnapping caused panic among the churchgoers, some of whom recalled that on September 26, 2001, Deacon Sylner Lafaille, who was accompanied by his wife, Marie Marthe Laurent Lafaille, was shot and killed as they were preparing to enter the church.
The wife was later released after a ransom had been paid.
Criminal gangs have been engaged in kidnappings for ransom with the clergy and places of worship are increasingly being targeted.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has described the situation as “a living nightmare”.
The latest kidnappings follow the abduction of Father Antoine Macaire Christian Noah five days ago as he made his way to his missionary community, north of the capital. He had been working as a parish priest in the mountainous village of Casale for a year before he was snatched.
The Claretian Missionaries, the religious congregation he belongs to, said it had been contacted by the gang with a ransom demand.
Last year, Haiti reported more than 1,200 kidnappings. Last weekend, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Volker Türk, who was on a two-day official visit to Haiti, lamented the fact that the situation in the French-speaking country is not receiving the urgent spotlight that it deserves.
The OHCHR official described Port au prince as a capital city where, in many areas, predatory armed gangs control access to water, food, healthcare and fuel, where kidnappings are rampant, and children are prevented from going to school, and are recruited to perpetrate violence and subjected to it.
“A country where one out of every two people faces hunger, lives in extreme poverty and does not have regular access to clean drinking water. Where prisoners are dying of malnutrition, cholera and more. Let’s not forget the vulnerability of the country to natural disasters,” Türk said.
He added that the issues facing the country are “vast and overwhelming,” but cautioned “against writing off the situation in Haiti as insurmountable and hopeless”.
The Haitian situation is expected to be a major item when Caricom leaders gather in the Bahamas on Wednesday for their three-day summit.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who will be a special guest at the summit, said he will “drive progress on shared priorities, including continued support for the Haitian people.”
“The visit will provide an opportunity for the leaders to consider further regional political security, and humanitarian assistance in support of the Haitian people and Haitian-led solutions to the ongoing situation in Haiti, which is having a devastating impact on the Haitian people,” Trudeau said.
Haiti’s Prime Minister Dr Ariel Henry, who is facing opposition calls for his removal from office, has been urging for a multinational intervention force to deal with the social unrest in his country.