Catholic institutions, including schools and universities, closed in Haiti on Wednesday in a three-day protest I demand the release of five priests, two nuns and two other abductees More than a week has passed amid a wave of violence that the government is trying to control.
Church officials also organized Prayers for the kidnapped – at least two of whom are French – and the bells of St. Peter’s Church in Pétionville rang at noon, where hundreds of people gathered to express their support.
“No one is safe,” said Margaret Jean Luis, 65. “I hope the abductees will be unharmed.”
The abduction of priests, nuns and relatives of another priest in the capital on April 11 is one of the most shocking in recent years in Haiti, which last year saw a 200% increase in abductions, according to the UN.
The abductees were identified as Mothers Anne-Marie Dorcelus and Agnès Bordeau, priests Michel Briand, Evens Joseph, Jean-Nicaise Millien, Joël Thomas and Hugues Baptiste and three relatives of another priest. Briand was identified as French.
One of the relatives was released because she was ill, according to a radio interview broadcast on Monday with a man who claimed to be the leader of the pirates.
The man, who identified himself as Lanmò San Jou, from the 400 Mawozo gang, told Radio Mega that French citizens are among the most important hostages. “If Haiti is what it is, it is due to the French.”
In 1804, Haiti gained independence from France, which claimed huge damage.
The alleged gang leader said he wanted restitution from France and would stop feeding the hostages. He declined to say the ransom he had asked for.
Church officials who organized the closure said the services will be held on Wednesday and Thursday and that on Friday, church campaigns across the country will call for victims.
“We, the Catholic bishops of Haiti, see with great sadness that there has been no change in the situation of our brothers and sisters in the hands of the bandits,” the Catholic Bishops’ Conference said on Tuesday. “Ten days in the possession of the kidnappers are too long.”