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Haiti: Gangs abduct worshippers from church where pastor was killed in 2021


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, CMC – Gunmen on Sunday seized three worshippers as they left a church whose pastor, Deacon Sylner Lafaille, was shot and killed in September 2021, during a kidnapping attempt.

The authorities said the three parishioners were preparing to return home after the 6:30 a.m. service at the First Baptist Church of Port-au-Prince located near the National Palace, the official residence of the head of state, when they were kidnapped by heavily armed individuals.

The latest kidnapping caused panic among the churchgoers, some of whom recalled that on September 26, 2001, Deacon Sylner Lafaille, who was accompanied by his wife, Marie Marthe Laurent Lafaille, was shot and killed as they were preparing to enter the church.

The wife was later released after a ransom had been paid.

Criminal gangs have been engaged in kidnappings for ransom with the clergy and places of worship are increasingly being targeted.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has described the situation as “a living nightmare”.

The latest kidnappings follow the abduction of Father Antoine Macaire Christian Noah, five days ago as he made his way to his missionary community, north of the capital. He had been working as a parish priest in the mountainous village of Casale, for a year before he was snatched.

The Claretian Missionaries, the religious congregation he belongs to, said it had been contacted by the gang with a ransom demand.

Last year, Haiti reported more than 1,200 kidnappings and last weekend, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Volker Türk, who was on a two-day official visit to Haiti lamented the fact that the situation in the French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country is not receiving the urgent spotlight that it deserves.

The OHCHR official described Port-au-Prince as “a capital city where, in many areas, predatory armed gangs control access to water, food, healthcare and fuel, where kidnappings are rampant, children are prevented from going to school, recruited to perpetrate violence and subjected to it.

“A country where one out of every two people faces hunger, lives in extreme poverty and does not have regular access to clean drinking water. Where prisoners are dying of malnutrition, cholera and more. Let’s not forget the vulnerability of the country to natural disasters.”

Turk said that the issues facing the CARICOM country are “vast and overwhelming,” but cautioned “against writing off the situation in Haiti as insurmountable and hopeless”.

The Haitian situation is expected to be a major item when CARICOM leaders gather in the Bahamas on Wednesday for their three-day summit.


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