Written by Staff Writer, CNN
This is part two of a two-part series on the kidnapping of missionaries in Haiti. Read part one here.
A group of 15 Missionaries have been kidnapped in Haiti. Here’s a look at other incidents of violence toward missionaries in the country, from threats to personal attacks to rape.
Violence against missionaries in Haiti dates back to at least the mid-19th century. For example, kidnappings and mutilations by the French army were commonplace, as were accounts of missionaries being killed and driven into rivers.
While those who spoke with CNN say they can’t yet say for certain what motives the missionaries were abducted for, it’s noteworthy that extortion — financially and otherwise — is a constant element in those attacks.
Security for missionaries in Haiti is often absent, though the government has sought to attract foreign aid and visitors, and expand the tourism sector.
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The cost of expatriate arrival visas to Haiti was temporarily capped in 1994 by the US government, at $2,000. This was the height of the Wycliffe Bible Translators’ mission on the island, along with the earthquake of 2010. Despite the decree, at least 12,500 people continued to enter from the US.
Most government security is provided by the French and French-speaking Belgian-speaking department of Margite, while the airport in Port-au-Prince is partly guarded by the US embassy. Access to Haiti is through the border with Jamaica, through a road where volunteers encounter roadblock after roadblock of what they assume are thieves.
Don’t expect to see a major airport or cruise terminal in Haiti.
“They don’t want to have people with iPads or iPhones,” said Jean-Pierre Magnener, senior member of the Church of God Haiti Mission.
Protests and threats
Protests against missionaries, in particular missions sending “foreign goods,” continue, though there has been a cooling of that rhetoric in recent years.
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Also unknown is who could be behind the abductions. But for some missionaries, it’s easy to draw conclusions.
According to one person with close ties to the Church of God, it is estimated that 80% of foreign aid in Haiti goes to those governments that are most corrupt.
That is true for other missions as well. “There has been criticism of the US mission by groups like PAHO (World Health Organization), for supporting too many hospitals that were run by the government,” said Magnener.
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Known in Haiti as “kaboos,” Dr. James O’Brien, who performs treatment on Haitian women to prevent them from getting pregnant, was one of two Americans who were kidnapped by armed robbers in Haiti in 2016.
However, he was only held for an hour and was back at work.
Poverty rates have dropped since 2014, according to the World Bank. Those who wish to change their country will have to do it not through the advancement of its formal economy, but through poverty reduction — through the engagement of Haiti’s residents in the development of their own economy.