MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The future is still unclear for 17 missionaries with an Ohio religious group being held hostage in Haiti.
The group includes 16 United States citizens, five of whom are children. The Christian group says a notorious Haitian gang is to blame.
It is the latest in ongoing turmoil in the Caribbean country. It’s chaos that many Minnesotans are watching closely, hoping more can be done to stop it.
A WCCO camera captured a thrilled 9-year-old in 2010, when Patrice Shelton arrived at her new Minnesota home. She survived a catastrophic earthquake in her Port-au-Prince orphanage, alongside her younger brother, Phillippe.
“Definitely was traumatic. There was a lot going on. Coming to a new country, not knowing the language and everything,” Patrice Shelton said. “Adapted to the culture and kind of just moved on.”
Patrice is 21 now, working two jobs with a passion for helping people – and wishing for peace in her home country.
“The earthquake, the president being assassinated, it’s just, Haiti needs a break,” Patrice Shelton said.
That latest quake in August killed more than 2,200. And after the assassination, kidnappings have soared some 300%. More than 600 have been reported just this year.
Ruben Joanem is with the Haiti Justice Committee.
“It’s a level of lawlessness that the country has launched into. It’s a shock,” Joanem said.
He just returned home to the Twin Cities from Haiti two weeks ago. His Haiti Justice Committee of Minnesota made a trip to help rebuild.
Joanem describes a dire situation: Day-long waits for fuel, and negotiations with gangs in order to make deliveries.
“The institutions down there no longer function,” Joanem said.
Patrice and Phillippe feel thankful for what they have now.
“There’s a lot to be grateful for,” Patrice said.
Her brother is away serving in the National Guard, as a local family hopes others will pay attention to Haiti’s plight.
“I’m glad to be here, and I wish Haiti would get the help they need,” Patrice said.
The gang kidnapped the group of missionaries on Saturday after they visited an orphanage in Port-au-Prince. The U.S. State Department has said it’s aware of the situation, and that the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is one of its highest priorities.