PROSPECT HEIGHTS — A Haitian street gang wants $1 million for each of the 17 missionaries kidnapped Oct. 16, but a Catholic bishop in Haiti said human life is priceless and urged that the captives be freed.
“Money for human beings — there is no price,” said Bishop Pierre André Dumas of the Diocese of Anse-á-Veau. “We in the Church, we try to defend the dignity of human beings. Each human being — even if you are not Haitian — there is no question of color, no question of identity. It’s a human being.”
Bishop Dumas commented on the kidnappings during an Oct. 20 video-conference interview with Christine Persichette, anchor for Currents News on NET-TV.
The bishop is a friend of the Diocese of Brooklyn. Last winter, the Cathedral of St. Anne, a historic church in his diocese, received a gift of pews and a church bell from the Diocese of Brooklyn’s Office of Patrimony. And last month, he visited Brooklyn to attend the funeral of Auxiliary Bishop Guy Sansaricq, also a native of Haiti.
The Diocese of Anse-á-Veau is about 60 miles from Port-au-Prince.
The armed gang, 400 Mawozo, reportedly kidnapped 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian — six men, six women, and five children — on a road north of the capital city Port-au-Prince on Oct. 16.
Five days later, the gang’s leader threatened to kill them if his demands go unmet.
The missionaries are associated with an Ohio-based missionary group founded by the Amish and Mennonites. FBI agents went to Haiti to help win their release.
Bishop Dumas told Persichette that the kidnappers should release the people without delay.
“I am so sorry,” he said. “This is not good and it’s a pity to have that.”
Persichette asked Bishop Dumas if he believed that the gang had an ulterior motive to kidnap missionaries.
“We don’t know,” he responded. “Sometimes we have some political hands behind (the scenes).”
He said they might be trying to spread fear and distrust among religious people, or to “send a message to America.”
Gang violence, piracy of relief aid, and kidnappings have flourished from the government’s inability to control lawlessness.
According to earlier reports, 400 Mawozo in April abducted five Catholic priests, two Catholic nuns, and three relatives. The gang members demanded a $1 million ransom. They freed the captives later, but it’s unclear if a ransom was paid.
Persichette noted that the 400 Mawozo gang is considered one of the most dangerous gangs in Haiti, accused of murder and raping women. She asked Bishop Dumas if he worried for the safety of the kidnapped missionaries.
“I have a lot of concerns,” he said. “These are innocent people, and children also.
“They are missionaries, and they come forward doing good things in the country,” he added. “They love Haitian people; they love kids. They love people who are suffering, and they want to help.
“This is my cry, my appeal, to these people, the kidnappers, and other people who do such things: Release, freely, these persons.”