More than 10 days after five priests, two nuns, and three lay people were abducted in Haiti and held for ransom, there are reports that three of the kidnapped Catholics have been released.
Fr. Loudger Mazile, a spokesman for the Haitian bishops’ conference, told AFP on April 22 that the two kidnapped French citizens -- one missionary priest and a religious sister -- were still being held by the kidnappers, along with five others.
Mazile added that the three lay people, who are family members of a Haitian priest, were not among those who were released.
The group of Catholics was abducted on April 11 at Croix-des-Bouquets, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, while on the way to attend the installation of a parish priest.
According to Haitian media, the 400 Mawozo gang admitted that it is behind the kidnapping and is demanding a $1 million ransom.
The Haitian bishops’ conference organized a strike on April 21-23, calling on all Catholic schools and institutions -- except hospitals and clinics -- to close in protest and for people to dedicate the days to prayer, according to an April 20 statement.
The Catholic bishops have asked people to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet after each daily Mass to “implore God for the release of the abducted people, the conversion of the kidnappers, the salvation of Haiti.”
On April 23, bells are scheduled to ring at noon in Catholic churches across Haiti, which have also been asked to expose the Blessed Sacrament and to pray that “that the Power of the Resurrection of Christ triumphs over all the forces of darkness and death which prevent us from living as children of God.”
Archbishop Max Mésidor of Port-au-Prince said that Catholics in Haiti were demanding “security and peace for all missionaries and all people.”
The Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince said in a statement that gang violence had reached “unprecedented” levels in the country.
“For some time now, we have been witnessing the descent into hell of Haitian society,” the archdiocese said, according to AFP.
“The public authorities who are doing nothing to resolve this crisis are not immune from suspicion,” the statement continued, condemning “complacency and complicity.”
The number of kidnappings for ransom has recently increased in Haiti and protesters have denounced the surge of violence plaguing the country.