An 8-month-old baby is among the 17 kidnapped missionaries in Haiti being held for a ransom of $17 million by the notorious 400 Mawozo gang, Christian Aid Ministries said Tuesday as officials in the troubled Caribbean nation and the U.S. continue negotiating for their release.
Haitian Justice Minister Liszt Quitel confirmed Tuesday that the 400 Mawozo gang, which kidnapped the missionaries Saturday while they were working with Christian Aid Ministries, demanded $1 million each for their safe return.
“Many people, including CAM management and Haitian and U.S. authorities, are working diligently to bring our loved ones home safely,” Christian Aid Ministries said in a statement.
In an effort to protect the identity of the missionaries, prior to Tuesday, not many details had been released publicly about them except that their group includes six men, six women and five children, of which 16 are Americans and one is Canadian. Christian Aid Ministries revealed in their most recent update on the kidnappings that the youngest member of the group is just eight months old while the oldest is 48.
“The ages of the adults being held captive range from 18 to 48. The ages of the children are 8 months, 3 years, 6 years, 13 years, and 15 years. Today, we again commit our workers to God’s care. ‘For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways’ (Psalm 91:11). Pray that our workers could respond to hatred with Jesus’ love, overcome the spirit of fear with faith, and face violence with a genuine desire to bless their oppressors,” Christian Aid Ministries said.
Minister Ron Marks of the Hart Dunkard Brethren Church in Michigan previously told The Detroit News on Monday that several members of his church — a family of five, including four children — are among the kidnapped missionaries. While he chose not to identify the members he shared that the youngest child is younger than 10.
Since the kidnapping of the missionaries, Haitians have taken to the streets demanding their release. Schools and most businesses were closed for a second consecutive day in Port-au-Prince Wednesday, according to The Haitian Times, following a call for a general strike to protest kidnappings and widespread insecurity which followed the assassination of the country’s late President Jovenel Moïse in July.
"Without these missionaries, a lot of the old people you see out here would not have been able to send their children to school. Without these missionaries, a lot of these people would have lost their homes to floods. Without these missionaries, our damaged homes would never have been repaired," a protester who declined to give his name told Voice of America in Titanyen, a village north of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. "It's they who built a road that we can travel on today."
Another Titanyen protester, who identified himself only as Robert, also praised the work of the missionaries in their community.
“They asphalted our roads; they helped us protect our homes from landslides and floods. We are asking for their freedom right away. And we are asking the kidnappers to let us live in peace," he told VOA.
Christian Aid Ministries continued calling for prayers for the kidnapped missionaries Tuesday, noting that they were involved in significant ministry work before the kidnappings.
“This group of workers has been committed to minister throughout poverty-stricken Haiti. Their heart-felt desire is to share the love of Jesus. Before the kidnapping, their work throughout Haiti included supporting thousands of needy school children, distributing Bibles and Christian literature, supplying medicines for numerous clinics, teaching Haitian pastors, and providing food for the elderly and vulnerable,” the international charity said. “In recent months, they were actively involved in coordinating a rebuilding project for those who lost their homes in the August 2021 earthquake. When kidnapped, the group was returning from a visit to an orphanage that receives support from Christian Aid Ministries.”