Haiti’s Catholic Church has warned of the country’s “descent into hell” after 10 people, including members of the clergy and French citizens, were abducted by kidnappers in Croix-des-Bouquets, demanding US$1 million in ransom.
“For some time now, we have been witnessing the descent into hell of Haitian society,” the Archdiocese of the capital Port-au-Prince said in a statement, adding that “violence by armed gangs” was taking on “unprecedented” proportions.
The church also criticized the government for being ineffective, also saying in the statement, “The public authorities who are doing nothing to resolve this crisis are not immune from suspicion. We denounce complacency and complicity wherever it comes from.”
The people kidnapped in the town northeast of Port-au-Prince include seven Catholic clergy—five of them Haitian, and two French citizens, a priest and a nun.
Haiti has been in a months-long political crisis during which kidnappings for ransom have increased sharply in Port-au-Prince and other provinces, reflecting the growing influence of armed in the nation.
In March, the government declared a month-long state of emergency to restore state authority in gang-controlled areas, including in the capital city.
The kidnap victims were “on their way to the installation of a new parish priest” when they were abducted Sunday, according to Father Loudger Mazile of Haiti’s Bishop’s Conference. The priest indicated the kidnappers have demanded a US$1 million ransom for the group.
The five priests belong to the Society of Priests of St James, which is based in France, their superior general, Paul Dossous confirmed. “We are trying to pray while also being active. We are negotiating. The contact is made, that is important,” he said.
“This is too much. The time has come for these inhuman acts to stop,” said Bishop Pierre-Andre Dumas of Miragoane in southwestern Haiti. “The Church prays and stands in solidarity with all the victims of this heinous act,” he added.
The rise in gang violence and political instability have recently drawn protesters onto the streets of Port-au-Prince.
A week ago, hundreds of women protesters rallied in the city against the growing power of gangs, which has led to a spike in kidnappings for ransom.
The United States warned of the risk of widespread kidnappings in a travel advisory issued on Monday. The advisory cautioned that the victims regularly include U.S. citizens.