HAITI: Bishop's daughters rescued by police after foiled kidnapping

January 15, 2007

Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin of Haiti calls a foiled kidnapping of his two daughters in December "a miracle of God."


It happened on the road leading out of Port-au-Prince while the young women were on their way to the funeral of Duracin's mother-in-law. They were traveling with their brother and cousin.

"Robbers stopped them with arms. My son was driving. They took the car from him. They kidnapped my two daughters and Father Millien's son." Jean Richard Duracin immediately called his father who alerted the police. Forty minutes later the police had located the car and rescued the young people, said the bishop.

"In Haiti, now, almost every family has been a victim," said Duracin. "It is a very difficult situation. Very often they claim a lot of money for ransom; sometimes people are killed. Even sometimes when they pay the ransom." Duracin did not have to pay a ransom, though the thieves stole the youths' money and cell phones.

Duracin says there has been a great improvement in the last weeks, with additional police "put on the streets." He hopes the situation will continue to improve, but still does not personally invite missionaries and volunteers to come. "I don't tell people 'Don't come.' I tell people to be very careful, to follow the advice of [their hosts]."

The Sisters of St. Margaret, displaced by violence two years ago from their convent behind the cathedral, are unsure when they will be able to return. The street immediately behind the convent wall, Rue Montalais, is one of the most dangerous in the city. It leads from Belleaire, a troubled, violent neighborhood, directly to the presidential palace. "It is considered a no-go zone," said Sister Marjorie Raphael, SSM. "Even the embassy tells its people not to go on that side ... so we just wait." On several occasions bullets have pierced the convent walls.

The sisters are living in converted quarters at the "Foyer," a home for the elderly that they run in the capital city. In what was an overseer's quarters, they have created a guest room and a small chapel. They report that Holy Trinity School, the elementary school on the grounds next to the cathedral, was able to reopen after violence closed it before Christmas. Only about half the children are back however.

"A lot of parents are not trusting enough to put their children on the streets," said Raphael. "Some teachers didn't want to teach with only a couple of kids. So that's another problem. But we are hoping for the best."

In December, several kidnapping incidents frightened parents. "A whole busload of children were taken at one point," reports Raphael. "But right now, everyone is working hard so there is security enough ... A lot more police have been put on the streets near the schools."

The violence around Holy Trinity Episcopal Cathedral caused the traditional Christmas Eve midnight mass to be cancelled. "The Haitians love that midnight mass," said Raphael, "but they didn't feel it was safe. They took a vote of the congregation and the majority said "No."

In mid-December, 566 new police officers were sworn in. The United Nations' stabilization mission has maintained a force of 8,800 in the country since 2004 when a revolt uprooted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Duracin thanked the church for its concern. "We need the support of the church ... The whole Episcopal Church has remembered Haiti in their prayers and we need that so much."

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