The capital of Haiti is grappling with a surge in violence that has resulted in the isolation of several neighborhoods, exacerbating the already challenging security situation. In a distressing incident amidst this turmoil, armed gunmen forcibly took at least six nuns hostage when they commandeered a bus in Port-au-Prince, subsequently driving off to an undisclosed destination.
Local sources report that the victims belong to the Sisters of Sainte-Anne congregation, with additional occupants, including the bus driver, also falling victim to the abduction. The armed assailants intercepted and boarded the minibus en route to the university, effectively seizing all passengers in broad daylight within the heart of the capital on January 19.
The Haitian Conference of Religious officially confirmed the kidnapping in a press release, prompting strong condemnation from Bishop Pierre-André Dumas. The Bishop of Anse-à-Veau and Miragoâne vehemently denounced the act as “odious and barbaric,” emphasizing the lack of respect for the dignity of the consecrated women committed to educating and nurturing the youth, especially the most vulnerable in society.
Bishop Dumas issued a fervent appeal for the release of the hostages, decrying the “deplorable and criminal practices” and urging Haitian society to unite in solidarity for the captives’ swift and safe return to their families and communities. In an extraordinary gesture of empathy, he declared his readiness to take the place of the hostages.
The escalating violence in Port-au-Prince has witnessed heightened criminal activities by armed gangs, resulting in fatal clashes in various districts. In the Solino district, violent exchanges between rival gangs, including one from the Bel-Air district, claimed around twenty lives, according to eyewitnesses.
Carrefour Péan and Delmas 24, other districts of the capital, have also faced gang attacks, prompting residents to set up barricades for self-protection. Kidnappings, increasingly prevalent in Port-au-Prince and major roads, have raised concerns for public safety. Last week, a doctor and a justice of the peace were kidnapped and released only upon the payment of a ransom.
Simultaneously, anti-government demonstrations led by former police chief and politician Guy Philippe have disrupted normalcy nationwide. Protesters are calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, criticizing him for inadequately addressing insecurity and economic challenges since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021. The situation remains tense, demanding urgent attention to restore stability in the troubled nation.