A group of Christian missionaries — 16 Americans and one Canadian — were kidnapped in Haiti, a U.S. ministry said.
The group of seven women, five men, and five children were abducted during a trip to visit an orphanage on Saturday, the Christian Aid Ministries based in Berlin, Ohio, said in a statement.
“This is a special prayer alert,” the one-minute message from the ministry said, according to NBC News. “Pray that the gang members would come to repentance.”
“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,” the ministry said in a statement.
“As an organization, we commit this situation to God and trust Him to see us through,” the ministry continued. “May the Lord Jesus be magnified and many more people come to know His love and salvation.”
The statement ended with Psalm 91:1,2,11, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust…For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.”
Christian Aid Ministries said it was working with the U.S. Embassy in Haiti to help facilitate a safe return for the kidnapped missionaries.
A U.S. government spokesperson said they were aware of the reports on the kidnapping.
“The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State,” the spokesperson said.
A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. is in contact with Haitian authorities to attempt to resolve the case, Time reported.
The 400 Mawozo gang kidnapped the missionaries in Ganthier, a community east of the capital of Port-au-Prince, Haitian police inspector Frantz Champagne told The Associated Press.
The gang — whose name roughly translates to 400 “inexperienced men” — was blamed for kidnapping five priests and two nuns earlier this year in Haiti. The 400 Mawozo gang controls the Croix-des-Bouquets area, and are known for kidnappings, carjackings, and extorting business owners, according to Haitian authorities.
Haitian gangs have demanded ransoms ranging from a couple of hundred dollars to more than $1 million, authorities have said.
USA Today reported, “At least 328 kidnapping victims were reported to Haiti’s National Police in the first eight months of 2021, compared with a total of 234 for all of 2020, according to a report issued last month by the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti known as BINUH.”
“Political turmoil, the surge in gang violence, deteriorating socioeconomic conditions — including food insecurity and malnutrition — all contribute to the worsening of the humanitarian situation,” BINUH said in its report last month. “An overstretched and under-resourced police force alone cannot address the security ills of Haiti.”