BERLIN, Ohio (WJW/AP)– Christian Aid Ministries, based in Berlin, Ohio, held a brief news conference Thursday morning on its 17 missionaries who were kidnapped in Haiti. Just hours later, there was a new development in the case.
The 400 Mawozo gang abducted the group, as well as their driver, during a visit to an orphanage on Saturday. Five children, ages 8 months, 3, 6, 13 and 15, are among the victims. Haitian officials said the gang is demanding $1 million ransom per person.
The Associated Press reported the leader of the gang, Wilson Joseph, threatened to kill Americans if his demands are not met during a video released on Thursday.
“I swear by thunder that if I don’t get what I’m asking for, I will put a bullet in the heads of these Americans,” he said in the video, according to the AP. “You guys make me cry. I cry water. But I’m going to make you guys cry blood.”
Earlier in the day, Christian Aid Ministries public relationship manager Weston Showalter said it is having a special day of prayer and fasting. He also read a letter from the families of the kidnapping victims.
“Dear Church of Christ around the world, thank you for your prayers on behalf of our family members who are being held hostage in Haiti. God has given our loved ones the unique opportunity to live out our Lord’s command to, ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you.’ Matthew 5:44. ‘God invites us to call upon his name in the day of trouble.’ Psalm 50:15. We thank him that he is God and ask him to hear our prayers and bring our families home,” Showalter read.
“We also pray that the light of God’s love might shine out against the darkness of sin, that the gang members might be freed of their bondage to sin and experience freedom in Jesus Christ.”
Showalter said the victims are from Amish and Mennonite communities in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Ontario, Canada. He did not answer any questions.
It’s the largest kidnapping in Haiti recent years, and comes as the country is to trying to recover from the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse on July 7 and a 7.2-magnitude earthquake on Aug. 14 that killed more than 2,200 people.
More than 300 kidnappings were reported to Haiti’s National Police this year, according to a report by the United Nations. The wave of abductions prompted a worker strike on Monday and demonstrations near Port-au-Prince on Tuesday, with signs reading “Free the Americans.”