Top religious leaders in Haiti denounce kidnapping of nuns and demand government action

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — The Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince pleaded for the release of six nuns kidnapped last week and demanded that Haiti’s government crack down on gang violence, in a strongly worded letter released Monday.

The Archdiocese, along with the Haitian Conference of the Religious, said in the letter that Haitians are tired of the “reign of terror” imposed by armed groups and called on government officials to protect people and their property.

“On many occasions, the Church has denounced their silence, which is similar to an attitude of contempt for people’s suffering,” the letter stated.

Religious leaders said they were distressed to witness that there has not been a serious response to what it called a scourge of kidnappings for more than two years. They said the ongoing violence has “plunged the country into an increasingly confusing and chaotic situation” as they called for the safe release of the kidnapped nuns without conditions.

The nuns and two other people were traveling aboard a bus in Port-au-Prince when they were kidnapped last Friday. No one has publicly claimed responsibility for the abduction.

On Sunday, Pope Francis pleaded for their release. Speaking from a window of the Apostolic Palace to faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Francis said he learned of the news of the kidnapping with sorrow: “In asking fervently for their release, I pray for social harmony in the country, and I ask all to put stop to the violence, which causes so much suffering to that dear population."

Gangs have been blamed for the kidnappings of nearly 2,500 people last year, a more than 80% increase compared with the previous year, according to U.N. statistics. Police remain overwhelmed and underfunded, with less than 10,000 active officers at a time in a country of more than 11 million people.