Dangerous conditions in Haiti prompted local agency to take action before recent abductions

MIAMI VALLEY — Long before 17 members of an Ohio based Christian missionary group were abducted in Haiti, the threat of danger was all around. That’s why a local organization that does work in the country said they won’t be returning to the country any time soon.

The Haitian Timoun Foundation, which partners with Epiphany Lutheran Church in Centerville, says their team of volunteers haven’t been to Haiti in over a year amid political instability and civil unrest.

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The notoriously dangerous 400 Mawozo gang has demanded $1 million for the release of each kidnapping victim abducted from the a different Ohio based missionary group, Christian Aid Ministries.

The group seized includes five children aged from 8 months to 15 years, although authorities were not clear whether the ransom demand included them, a top Haitian official said Tuesday. Sixteen of the abductees are Americans and one Canadian.

“The ransom amounts go up, up and up,” said Rev. Dr. Lorne Hlad, chairman of the Haitian Timoun Foundation, which was not involved in the recent kidnappings. As the random amounts go up the bleaker things look for the people who are captured. “They use a lot of fear and scare tactics to drive that ransom amount higher and higher.”

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Hlad said the average dollar amount for a victim’s release is $2,000.

Since January, at least 645 kidnappings have happened in Haiti. Data from global risks groups showed kidnapping cases rose 550 percent in the first nine months of 2021.

“It’s simply not safe right now,” Hlad said. “Without a sustainable government, with natural disaster after natural disaster, global pandemic, you have a situation in Haiti, where gangs are growing and spreading.”

Despite the danger, Hlad said people should not give up on the people of Haiti.

“I’m hopeful for the Haitian people and country of Haiti, but it’s going to demand our attention and again our anger. This just isn’t right,” he said.

Hlad says kidnapping victims are usually held as ransom for four to five days, but this latest kidnapping involving Christian Aid Ministries is now on day six.