A group of 12 missionaries in Haiti made a daring overnight escape, escaping their captors and walking for miles over rugged, moonlit terrain with an infant and other children, officials said Monday.
The group made their way stargazing to safety after a two-month kidnapping ordeal, according to Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) officials.The Ohio-based agency that employs the captive missionaries, said Monday at a news conference.
The account of the details of their journey to safety comes after news Thursday that the missionaries had been released.
A total of 17 people from the missionary group – 12 adults and five minors – were abducted on 16 October shortly after they visited an orphanage in Gänthér, in the Croix-de-Bouquet region. The group included 16 Americans and one Canadian. Five of the missionaries were abandoned earlier this month.
Their captors initially demanded from the 400 Mawozo gang millions of dollars in ransom. It remains unclear whether any ransom has been paid.
Officials with the Christian Aid Department (CAM), an Ohio-based agency that employs captive missionaries, said the group of 12 sailed by stargazing to safety after a two-month kidnapping ordeal. Five other captives who were also photographed had arrived at freedom earlier
The twelve who escaped last week carried the baby girl and a 3-year-old girl, and wrapped the infant to protect her from blackberries and trees.
A convoy heads to the airport after leaving the headquarters of the Christian Aid Ministries in Titanian, north of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Captive missionaries in Haiti made a daring overnight escape, dodging their captors and walking for miles over rugged, moonlit terrain with a baby and other children in tow.
David Troyer, CAM’s general manager, said CAM supporters had raised the money for potential ransom use, but he declined to say if anything had been paid for any of the launches.
CAM spokesman Weston Showalter said the 12 people who fled last week carried the baby girl and a 3-year-old girl, and wrapped the baby to protect her from blackberries and aging.
“After several hours of walking, daylight began to dawn and they finally found someone who helped make a phone call for help,” he said, his voice beginning to choke. “They were finally free.”
The 12 were flown to Florida on a US Coast Guard flight, and were later reunited with five previously released hostages.
CAM showed photos at press conferences showing the reunion of the released hostages, along with a video of the group singing a song that inspired them while they were captured.
The missionaries were taken hostage on their way back from the orphanage on the afternoon of October 16.
“They had no idea what lay ahead,” Showalter said. Only five or 10 minutes into the flight, they saw a barrier ahead of them.
The missionaries were not physically harmed by the kidnappers. Major physical challenges included heat, mosquitoes, and polluted water for bathing, resulting in some of them developing sores. Sometimes young children get sick.
Their captors initially demanded from the 400 Mawozo gang millions of dollars in ransom. It remains unclear whether any ransom has been paid. Lanm San Jou, leader of Mawozo nicknamed “Death Without Days”
The missionaries were traveling from the Croix-de-Bouquet region, where they were building an orphanage, to Port-au-Prince airport. They were kidnapped near Carrefour Bowen and La Tremblay 17 on the road to Gänther
CAM spokesman Weston Showalter said the group’s driver – the Canadian in the group – turned around, but a pickup truck chased after them, and “gang members surrounded the truck.”
He said early reports that the driver was a Haitian were not accurate.
He said they were initially crowded into a small room in a house, but were moved several times during their capture.
Showalter said they were not physically harmed by the kidnappers.
He said the main physical challenges include heat, mosquitoes, and polluted water for bathing, which left some of them with sores. Sometimes young children get sick.
However, he said, it appears everyone has come out of captivity in good health.
He said the adults were given small portions of food, such as rice and beans for dinner, even though the kidnappers provided plenty of food suitable for young children.
Unidentified persons board a car leaving for the airport from the headquarters of the Christian Aid Ministries in Titanian, north of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, December 16, 2021.
Showalter said the hostages gathered several times during the day for prayer and religious devotion, sometimes singing loud enough to hear each other when in separate rooms.
Showalter said they also sought to encourage other hostages held for ransom in separate kidnappings.
Over time, the hostages agreed to try to escape, choosing the night of December 15th to escape.
When they felt the time was right, they found a way to open the door which had been shut and blocked, and to proceed silently to the path they had chosen to follow, quickly left the place where they had been held, despite the fact that many of the guards were as well. Showalter said.
Headquartered in Berlin, Ohio, CAM is supported by conservative Anabaptists, a group of Mennonite, Amish, and related groups whose distinguishing features include non-resistance to evil, plain dress, and detachment from mainstream society.
None of the released hostages attended the press conference. They came from the Amish, Mennonite, and other Anabaptist communities in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Ontario, according to CAM.
After the press conference, a group of CAM staffers stood up and sang, “Near my God to you” in the powerful four-part acapella harmony that is a signature of conservative Anabaptist cults.