Diaspora

Christian Missionaries Who Were Held Captive by Gang in Haiti Reveal How They Escaped – PEOPLE

The Christian missionaries who were kidnapped by a Haitian gang while visiting the country in October are detailing how they made their escape earlier this month.
On Monday, Christian Aid Ministries — an Ohio-based missionary group for Amish, Mennonite, and other conservative Anabaptists — announced that all 17 of their kidnapped members had returned to the United States safely.
When they were taken hostage by Haiti's 400 Mawozo gang on Oct. 16, the group included 16 Americans and one Canadian who were ambushed in their bus after delivering aid to an orphanage.
Five members were released over the course of several weeks in November and December, leaving four men, two women, a married couple, a 10-month old baby, and children aged 3, 14, and 15, in captivity, the Miami Herald reported.
But the group allegedly took matters into their own hands by staging their escape on the night of Dec. 15, a Christian Aid Ministries spokesperson said on Monday.
"They found a way to open the door that was closed and blocked, filed silently to the path that they had chosen to follow and quickly left the place that they were held, despite the fact that numerous guards were close by," Christian Aid Ministries spokesman Weston Showalter said during a press conference.
RELATED: 2 of 17 Christian Missionaries Have Been Released After Being Kidnapped in Haiti: Report
The group walked 10 miles, using stars and nearby landscapes to help them along the path.
"Two hours were through fierce brambles. We were in gang territory the whole hike," Showalter told reporters, quoting one of the group's members.
Eventually, they encountered a local who helped them make a phone call for help. They were later flown to Florida by the Coast Guard.
"They were finally free," Showalter recalled.
RELATED:  17 Missionaries from the U.S. and Canada Have Been Kidnapped in Haiti, Ministry Says
Details of the escape are solely the account of the Christian Aid Ministries members and have not been otherwise verified.
According to BBC, police had been negotiating with 400 Mazowo in recent weeks, and it is unclear whether a ransom had been paid. The outlet adds that kidnapping is one of the primary ways 400 Mazowo acquires money. They had demanded $1 million for each of their missionary hostages.
RELATED VIDEO: People Magazine Investigates: Cults — Aggressive Christianity Missions — Child Snatcher
In a statement, Christian Aid Ministries General Director David N. Troyer shared a message to the kidnappers, forgiving them for the ordeal.
"We do not know all of the challenges you face. We do believe that violence and oppression of others can never be justified. You caused our hostages and their families a lot of suffering," Troyer said.
"However, Jesus taught us by word and by His own example that the power of forgiving love is stronger than the hate of violent force," he added. "Therefore, we extend forgiveness to you."

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