UPDATED 7:37 AM PT – Monday, November 22, 2021
Two of the 17 missionaries taken hostage in Haiti are released. In a statement Sunday, Christian Aid Ministries confirmed that both members are “safe, in good spirits and being cared for.” The two were among the 17 missionaries abducted in October following a visit to an orphanage outside Haiti’s capital by members of a notorious gang in the country.
The organization was not able to identify the two missionaries for their own safety or the circumstances behind their release, but said its heart is with the remaining 15 people who are still being held. Haitian authorities previously announced they received proof that the missionaries are still alive, but did not specify what sort of evidence the kidnappers provided.
Christian Aid Ministries said the 17 missionaries, including five children ranging from eight-months to 15-years-old, were abducted on October 16. The 400 Mawozo Gang has threatened to kill the hostages if they do not receive the $17 million ransom. U.S. authorities have reached out to the gang regarding the group’s release.
“We have [in the administration] been relentlessly focused on this, including sending a team to Haiti from the State Department, working very closely with the FBI, which is the lead in these kinds of matters,” stated White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. “In constant communication with the Haitian National Police, the church that the missionaries belong to as well as the Haitian government and we will do everything that we can to help resolve the situation.”
The 400 Mawozo, which loosely translates as the “400 Simpletons,” kidnapped 16 American missionaries and one Canadian missionary that were visiting an orphanage outside the capital Port Au Prince. Wilson Joseph, the gang’s leader, released a video in which he threatened to kill the mission group if the ransom is not paid.
The gang is responsible for a number of violent kidnappings and extortion plots throughout the impoverished nation over the last few years, including the kidnapping of five priests and two nuns earlier this year. In response, a State Department spokesman said the “welfare and safety” of U.S. citizens abroad is their highest priority.
Joseph has also threatened Prime Minister Ariel Henry and the Chief of Haiti’s National Police, Leon Charles as he spoke in front of the open coffins of five recently killed gang members.
“I cry water, but I’m going to make you guys cry blood,” said Joseph. “By killing five of my soldiers it doesn’t mean he’s going to destroy my army.”
The identities of the missionaries have not been released at this time. The families have asked God to keep their loved ones strong in their faith and to bring them home when their mission is complete.