A group of 12 American and Canadian Christian missionaries managed to escape after being kidnapped by a terrorist gang in Haiti. According to the survivors’ account, their belief in God helped them through the toughest moments and guided them to their successful escape.
A total of 17 missionaries and their families were kidnapped in mid-October, after having visited an orphanage in the city of Ganthier, east of the capital, Port-au-Prince. Five others had already been released.
Among the abductees were five children, including one just 8 months old.
“I swear by thunder that if I don’t get what I’m asking for, I will put a bullet in the heads of these Americans,” gang leader Wilson Joseph said in a video posted on social media, a few days after news of the kidnapping broke.
The gang, known as 400 Mawozo, demanded $1 million for each of the abductees.
Joseph also threatened Prime Minister Ariel Henry and the head of Haiti’s national police as he spoke in front of open coffins apparently containing several members of his gang who were recently killed by Haitian authorities.
The last 12 missionaries who remained captive in Haiti, carried out a courageous and dangerous escape plan to free themselves from their captors. According to what they reported in a press conference upon their return to the United States, their courage and decision was thanks to their strong faith in God and for listening to the messages and signs He was sending them.
The group consisted of a married couple, four single men, two women and four children, including an infant and a three-year-old boy. They had all agreed that they would try to escape if they received a sign from God, said Deston Showalter, the spokesman for the Christian group that promoted their trip to Haiti.
On two occasions, he said the group received divine signs to stay put, but after ‘receiving a sign to flee,’ they slipped away after dark on Dec. 15.
The group of hostages prepared for the escape by packing enough water and covering most children with clothes so they wouldn’t get hurt by jungle branches in the dark of night, the BBC reported.
“When they sensed the timing was right, they found a way to open the door that was closed and blocked, filed silently to the path they [had] chosen to follow and left the place that they were held”, Showalter said.
After long hours of walking through the brambles, the group made it safely to their destination and were flown by the Coast Guard to Florida, where they were reunited with the other hostages and their families after two months of captivity.
According to their statements, although they suffered much discomfort due to the heat, mosquitoes and overcrowding, the hijackers did not mistreat their hostages at any time. It was unclear whether the negotiators finally agreed to the full or partial payment requested by their leader.
During the conference, members of the group claimed to hold no grudges against their captors, whom they pointed to as the “real hostages” in this story. “Our prayer is they hostage-takers be transformed. We choose to extend forgiveness to them. We would love for them to become brothers in Christ,” they said.
The 400 Mazowo criminal gang frequently uses extortive kidnapping as a tool to raise funding to support its leaders and the ‘army’ of criminals who execute the criminal schemes.
The political and social anarchy that has reigned in Haiti for years has allowed the development of this type of gang, which has led to the country having the highest kidnapping rates in the world.