Questions Continue for Baptist Missionaries in Haiti

Haitian officials have resumed allowing orphans already in the adoption process to leave the Caribbean country, as it continued its child-trafficking investigation of 10 American missionaries arrested late last week.

By Melissa Arteaga Marti | PODER360.com
Lannis Waters | The Palm Beach Post

Carol Lancette,(right), a UNICEF caseworker, cradles a baby at an orphanage in Petionville.

Government officials in Haiti are determined to send a convincing message as they deal with the 10 religiously affiliated Americans arrested for attempting to take Haitian children out of their quake-devastated nation.

Across town in a Port-au-Prince jail, the Central Valley Baptist Church members accused of kidnapping 33 children remain in jail, thou they maintain their innocence.

Two Haitians and the five men and five women with U.S. passports were detained late Friday when they tried to cross into the Dominican Republic in a bus with the children, between the ages of two months and 14 years.

Possible charges

The Culture and Communications Minister told reporters that a Haitian judge would decide whether to transfer the case to the United States at some point this week. The group was scheduled to appear before the judge Monday morning, but was postponed because a Creole interpreter was not available.

In a case that has heightened concerns about the safety of child survivors of the January 12th earthquake, the group face further questioning, officials said.

Interim prosecutor Mazar Fortil said the Baptist parishioners might face a charge of criminal conspiracy in Haiti, as well as possible charges in the U.S. for child-trafficking and kidnapping minors.

Laura Silsby, who heads the Idaho-based group New Life Children's Refuge, insisted the group "came here literally to just help the children.

"Our intentions were good," she told AFP from police detention. "We wanted to help those who lost parents in the quake or were abandoned."

The latest controversy has overshadowed the ongoing international relief effort still struggling to care for an estimated one million homeless Haitians in the capital.

Washington response

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley responded, saying Haitian officials would guide the White House in any decision making to come.

"Once we know the facts we'll determine what the appropriate course is, but the judgment is really up to the Haitian government," he said.

Shortly after the quake, families worldwide began the adoption process to take in Haitian children. The quick response pushed governments to speed up the process and Crowley said some 578 orphans had been brought to the U.S. under relaxed regulations.

Medical evacuations to the United States resumed late Monday, removing the critically injured victims to hospitals after a debate over funding had halted the flights.

Still struggling

In the nearly three weeks since the 7.0-magnitude earthquake killed well over 170,000 Haitians, many survivors are still gasping for shelter, food, water, and medical help.

United Nations officials said nearly half a million people fled Port-au-Prince in the days following the quake for the countryside.

The UN's humanitarian chief acknowledged the relief effort was still a work in progress, with new fears of violence in the Caribbean country, which has been scarred by decades of bloodshed.


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Pierre F. Lherisson
2010-02-02 13:19:22

This is a murky situation where most of the facts are unknown and it is hard to formulate a sensible opinion about this religious group. There is a proverb that say "hell is paved with good intentions"

2010-02-02 18:49:00

Wellit's quite unfortunate for the Baptist missionary, my contribution to the on going incident about child stealing or the misinterpretaion of the American Baptist is unfounate, when the Baptist missionary's went to Africa continent picking up premature babies, Twins abandon by parents on the streets, vilages, were there no govt. in Africa then? of which many of these abandon babies today are professors, leaders , the Baptist gave those children education and guide them inthe way of God, what has Haitian govtn. doing with these childern before the latest incident? Haiti Govt. may prosecute those ten of whatever numbers, if their intention is genuine God will surely defend them, if contrary, God will also judge them, as many people that are ready to help these children come forward, the united Nation should fast tract the relocation of those children out Haiti, methink, this is simple enough.

2010-02-02 19:46:24

I think they should send a clear message to these arrogant Baptists. They have a long history of this type of crap. There are a lot of hispanic immigrants in my area. A local Baptist church picks up Hispanic children on Sunday mornings WITHOUT their parents' permission and buses them to their fundamentalist, anti-Catholic church and takes them to their services and feeds them pizza. They know the parents are not going to go to the police. It is unbelievable how bold and crass they are. And ignorant of other religions and peoples' rights.