After 61 days held captive in Haiti, 12 Christian Aid Ministries missionaries have been freed, according to a short statement Thursday from the Ohio-based mission organizer. Originally, 17 of its workers were abducted on Oct. 16 while on a trip to visit an orphanage supported by the organization. Since then, kidnappers released five people, and now with the remaining 12 released, all those abducted have been freed.
The full group includes six men and six women ranging in age from 18 to 48, and five children ages 8 months, 3 years, 6 years, 13 years, and 15 years.
The group was kidnapped by the 400 Mawozo gang, which demanded $17 million and threatened to kill the hostages unless they got $1 million per person.
Before the kidnapping, the mission group worked throughout Haiti supporting thousands of needy school children, distributing Bibles and Christian literature, supplying medicines for numerous clinics, teaching Haitian pastors, and providing food for the elderly and vulnerable.
More recently, they were actively involved in coordinating a rebuilding project for those who lost their homes in the August 2021 earthquake, according to Christian Aid Ministries.
The missionaries are from Amish, Mennonite, and other Anabaptist communities in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Ontario, Canada.
For security reasons, during the ordeal, Christian Aid Ministries would not share the names of those kidnapped nor the names of the five who were freed earlier.
The group sent daily emails around the world encouraging prayer and fasting not only for the kidnapped missionaries and others kidnapped in Haiti, but they also prayed for their captors.
The U.S. State Department has a “Do not travel” advisory in effect for Haiti, warning of kidnapping, crime, and civil unrest.
Kidnapping is widespread and victims regularly include U.S. citizens, the State Department warns. Kidnappers may use sophisticated planning or take advantage of unplanned opportunities, and even convoys have been attacked. Kidnapping cases often involve ransom negotiations and U.S. citizen victims have been physically harmed during kidnappings. Victim’s families have paid thousands of dollars to rescue their family members.
Haiti is also the scene of much violent crime including armed robbery and carjacking. Robbers and carjackers will attack private vehicles stuck in heavy traffic and often target lone drivers, particularly women.
Protests, demonstrations, tire burning, and roadblocks are frequent, unpredictable, and can turn violent, the State Department warns, and the U.S. government is limited in its ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Haiti.
Christian Aid Ministries was not answering phones or responding to email Thursday. Its statement was one of gratefulness.
“We glorify God for answered prayer—the remaining twelve hostages are free! Join us in praising God that all seventeen of our loved ones are now safe. Thank you for your fervent prayers throughout the past two months,” the statement said. “We hope to provide more information as we are able.”