Kidnapped Americans part of 40-year-old, U.S.-based missionary group
The Ohio-based missionary group Christian Aid Ministries — whose 17 workers and children were kidnapped by a Haitian gang on Saturday — had only returned to the nation in 2020 after a nine-month absence that came amid reports of growing lawlessness on the island.
The group did not specify a reason for that withdrawal, but the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti said there were 234 kidnappings in the nation during 2020. The situation has worsened since, with at least 328 kidnapping victims reported to the National Police in the first eight months of this year, according to media reports.
Sixteen victims were taken on Saturday by Americans. The group said in an announcement. One victim is a Canadian citizen. According to the statement, six men, six women, and five children were among those who were taken.
Christian Aid Ministries said its Haiti School Program “provides an opportunity for more than 9,000 Haitian children to attend school.”
CAM is the name of the Berlin, Ohio-based organization. It considers itself to be “a channel for church,” specifically the “Amish, Mennonite, and other conservative Anabaptist group,” according to . The 40-year-old group spends $100 million annually, according to media reports, to support its international programs, including “Medicines-For-Multitudes,” which distributes medicines and supplies to 380 locations overseas; a “Bibles-For-the-World” program; and a “Clothing Bundle” project that sends used clothing to nations including Nicaragua, Nigeria, Syria and Ukraine.
The Anabaptist tradition is split among many sects and opposes infant baptism, as it is practiced in the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and other traditions. They believe that believers must be able verbally to affirm their faith before they can be baptized. Many Anabaptist communities including the Mennonites and Amish are known for their pacifism.
The organization said that last year, 133 nations and territories “received aid, literature, or teaching” via its ministry, which reached more than 14 million people. They reported shipping 211 sea containers during the year, as well as purchasing the equivalent of 610 semi truckloads at field locations overseas.
The group has a disaster response arm that worked in 27 U.S. disaster areas in 2020, responding to 105 incidents. Volunteers restored or rebuilt 158 homes and their food kitchens served 38,488 meals.
The organization also has a microfinance program that operates in 20 nations and offers training to help people escape poverty, the group said. “SALT” stands for Shared Accountability Lending and Teaching and offers savings groups, financial education programs in the United States, and vocational schools abroad.
Not every interaction that CAM had in Haiti over the years was positive. In 2019, the group disclosed that a former CAM employee, Jeriah Mast, had confessed to molesting boys in Haiti during his time there. Mast was sentenced to nine-years in prison for child molestation in Ohio.
CAM apologized for not being aware of Mast’s behavior in Haiti and paid $420,000 to assist with housing and other forms of restitution.