MILLERSBURG, Ohio (WJW) -Seventeen members of a missionary group based in Northeast Ohio, including seven women and five children, have been taken hostage by kidnappers in Haiti.
The crime is part of a terrifying trend in Haiti, where criminal gangs kidnap foreigners and then demand ransom for their release.
The U.S. State Department and the FBI are now trying to determine where the kidnapping victims are being held, and what needs to be done to secure their safe return.
The hostages are associated with Christian Aid Ministries, a missionary group with headquarters in Millersburg in the heart of Ohio’s Amish County.
The organization provides a channel for members of the Amish and Mennonite communities to do missionary work in needy areas of the world. Christian
Aid Ministries says the 17 missionaries were kidnapped on Saturday, after leaving an orphanage outside of Port-Au-Prince.
Christian Aid Ministries issued a statement about the kidnappings that reads in part: “The group of 16 U.S citizens and one Canadian citizen includes five men, seven women, and five children. Join us in praying for those who are being held hostage, the kidnappers, and the families, friends, and churches of those affected. Pray for those who are seeking God’s direction and making decisions regarding this matter.”
In recent years, Haiti has become a dangerous place for foreigners to work and visit.
In August, the State Department issued a new travel advisory for Haiti, warning Americans about the danger of being kidnapped by criminal gangs seeking ransom.
On Monday, visitors to the Christian Aid Ministries headquarters dropped off items needed in places like Haiti, and told us they support the mission and admire the courage of the volunteers taken hostage on Saturday.
Volunteer Tirtzah Rarick told FOX 8, “It’s inspiring that they’re so willing to serve and love others in a practical way, even if it takes their own life.”
Rarick says she spoke with the family of one of the missionaries taken hostage in Haiti, and they are hopeful the kidnappers will release them without harming anyone.
“It’s heartbreaking but I guess there’s just so much hope, that we’re going to pray, and I think our hopes are, even if they don’t survive, even if the worst happens and their lives are taken with this, that we have the hope and are just being faithful,” she said.
While some Haitians say the kidnappings demonstrate the need for the U.S. to use military force to intervene and stabilize the situation in Haiti, supporters of Christian Aid Ministries say that runs counter to the beliefs of the hostages.
“They don’t love their life more than other people’s lives. To take violence against the captors, and to use force to save these precious men and women, that wouldn’t be what I think should be done and so just praying to God, asking him to do a miracle,” said Rarick.