6 Michiganders believed to be among 17 missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Posted at 5:46 AM, Oct 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-19 15:04:58-04

(WXYZ) — Several people from Michigan are among the 17 missionaries who were kidnapped in Haiti over the weekend.

We've learned that six of the 17 are from Michigan, with their home base being Hart Dunkard Brethren Church in Oceana County on the west side of the state.

One of Haiti's most powerful gangs is believed to be behind the kidnappings.

According to the Wall Street Journal, they are asking for $17 million, equal to $1 million for each of those who were kidnapped. Now, the FBI is involved.

Turmoil has rocked the streets of Haiti since their president, Jovenel Moise, was assassinated in July.

Since then, there has been a surge in kidnappings, more than 600 so far this year and over 100 in the last month alone.

A "protest strike" has also shut down businesses, schools and public transportation as unions and other groups protest the rise in crime while authorities continue to search for a group of 17 missionaries.

In all, there are 16 Americans and one Canadian.

"It seems that as many as six of these folks might be Michiganders, including adults and kids," Rep. Andy Levin said.

The White House said they are working to get the group back home.

"The US embassy in Port-Au-Prince is coordinating with local authorities and providing assistance to the families to resolve the situation," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

The missionaries include five children. They are part of a group called Christian Aid Ministries, based in Ohio.

The group is believed to have been kidnapped by the gang 400 Mawazo, one of many groups known to kidnap for ransom.

Haitian authorities say they're being held in a safe house in a suburb of the capital, Port Au Prince.

It's similar to another orphanage operated by Detroit Mitch Albom, who helps take care of poor children, providing food, safety and education.

Albom was just at his orphanage over the weekend when the attack happened and said 40 staff members, including four from Michigan, are still there.

'They're OK, they're safe. All the people that we have working with us in Michigan are OK and safe," he said. "We take great precautions, we don't take any chances, we have security, armed security outside our orphanage"

With the surge in kidnappings now making national headlines, Albom and Levin hope the U.S. will take action.

"It's one thing to be born poor or to live in poverty, it's another to live in terror," Albom said.