Amidst escalating violence in the Haitian capital, efforts to contain outbreaks of unrest are proving challenging, resulting in certain neighborhoods being completely cut off. In the midst of this turmoil, reports indicate that six members of the Sisters of Sainte-Anne congregation have been abducted, along with the driver of their vehicle, as armed assailants intercepted their minibus enroute to the university, taking all passengers hostage. The incident unfolded in broad daylight on January 19 in the heart of Port-au-Prince.
(Image source: Vatican news)
The Haitian Conference of Religious has officially confirmed the nuns kidnapping, drawing strong condemnation from Bishop Pierre-André Dumas. The Bishop of Anse-à-Veau and Miragoâne unequivocally denounces this "odious and barbaric act," highlighting the disregard for the dignity of these devoted women dedicated to educating and shaping the lives of the young, the impoverished, and the most vulnerable in society.
Bishop Dumas appeals for the immediate release of the hostages and a halt to "these deplorable and criminal practices." He urges all of Haitian society to unite in solidarity, forming a protective circle around the hostages to secure their release and ensure a swift, safe return to their families and communities. Finally, he expresses a willingness to take their place as a hostage.
In recent days, armed gangs have intensified their deadly activities, while protests against the prevailing insecurity have erupted nationwide. On Thursday, violent clashes erupted in the Solino district, south of Port-au-Prince, involving rival gangs, including an armed group from the neighboring Bel-Air district. Witnesses report that the confrontations resulted in approximately twenty casualties.
Other districts, such as Carrefour Péan and Delmas 24, have also fallen victim to gang attacks. Residents in Port-au-Prince have resorted to setting up barricades in the streets for self-protection. Kidnappings in the capital and on major roads have been on the rise for several weeks, with instances where ransom payments secured the release of victims, including a doctor and a justice of the peace last week.
Simultaneously, anti-government demonstrations led by former police chief and politician Guy Philippe have disrupted the nation. Philippe returned to Haiti after serving a prison sentence in the USA for money laundering related to drug trafficking. Protesters are demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who assumed power following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021. Critics argue that Henry has not done enough to address the pressing issues of insecurity and economic struggles.