As violence in Haiti spirals further out of control, the country’s bishops have urged national authorities to ensure the safety and security of citizens and to provide answers after a recent explosion left a bishop severely burned.

In a statement, the Haitian Bishops’ Conference (CEH) referred to the Feb. 18 explosion that injured Bishop Pierre-André Dumas of Anse-à-Veau and Miragoâne, saying, “the authorities of the Church of Rome, and other sister churches, the church in Haiti, and all citizens of the country must know what caused this enormous explosion.”

“We await without delay the results of the investigation by the Scientific Police to find out what happened and to make the appropriate decisions,” they said, saying Dumas “is suffering a lot. His family is suffering. The bishops, priests and faithful of the Diocese of Anse-à-Veau/Miragoâne, all citizens of goodwill, are suffering.”

However, the bishops insisted that “there is hope,” noting that Dumas continues to receive treatment. They prayed for his recovery, asking that “he can return among us, return to his diocese, resume the work of announcing the Gospel of love, justice and peace.”

Dumas was wounded in a massive explosion in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince on Feb. 18, sustaining severe burns.

He has since been transferred to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where he is receiving ongoing treatment for burns to his face, arms and legs. He continues to undergo various procedures but is in stable condition and is expected to return to Haiti when his health permits.

The bishops’ statement comes as Haiti has declared a 3-day state of emergency and a nighttime curfew after armed gangs stormed two of the country’s largest prisons over the weekend, allowing some 4,000 criminals, including murderers and kidnappers, to be released back onto the streets.

According to local reports, at least nine people died over the weekend, including four police officers, while gangs have targeted other structures such as police stations, the country’s international airport, and the national soccer stadium.

The deadly weekend marked a new low for Haiti, which for years has been plagued by violent unrest and criminal activity, prompting the United States to advise its citizens to leave the country and Canada to temporarily close its embassy.

As the weekend’s violence unfolded, 15,000 people were forced to flee between Thursday and Saturday, including those already living in makeshift camps for the displaced, according to the United Nations.

Gangs in Haiti are becoming increasingly bold as the situation continues to spiral out of control, making coordinated attacks on high-profile targets such as the central bank.

There are roughly 9,000 national police officers in Haiti working to provide security for more than 11 million people, according to the UN. They are regularly overwhelmed and outgunned by gangs, which currently control an estimated 80 percent of the capital.

Much of the violence exploded after the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise, who faced broad political opposition yet made the controversial decision to extend his tenure for one year, leading to mass upheaval and protests.

His assassination sparked a widespread political crisis, followed shortly by the outbreak of gang violence in many parts of the country. In 2022, further mass protests ignited over rising energy prices and an increased cost of living.

In February, a series of protests turned violent, leaving five people dead, with demonstrators seeking the removal of Haitian Prime Minister Ariel in compliance with a political agreement forged in 2022.

Henry, who took over after Moise’s assassination, has repeatedly postponed plans to hold parliamentary and presidential elections, which have not taken place in Haiti in almost a decade.

In their statement, the Haitian bishops reminded the government that they are the “de facto power that is responsible for the security of the country.”

As such, the government, they said, “must answer for the lives of citizens, because once they accept to be in command, they accept all the privileges, but also all the obligations and all the burdens that come with it.”

“What are we doing to change the situation of the people left to their fate? What are we doing to change the face of Haiti, our beautiful country?” they asked, challenging national authorities.

The bishops asked national police and the Scientific Police investigating the explosion that injured Dumas to publish their findings, saying, “we are awaiting the results of the investigations, and we ask God for peace and justice in Haiti.”

They closed praying for those “still in the hands of kidnappers,” and voicing solidarity with “all those who have been kidnapped, with all those who have been forced to flee their homes, who have lost family members or property,” telling them, “do not lose hope!”