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Listen in: St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church’s John Rife talks hurdles the Haiti Ministry faces as kidnappings continue in the country

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The gang that kidnapped 17 Christian Aid missionaries based out of Ohio doing work at a Haitian orphanage on Saturday is demanding a million dollar ransom each for their release. 

WMFE followed up with John Rife of St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church’s Haiti Ministry about how the recent kidnappings are changing the work they do in that country.

Read the full interview below. 

Danielle: How are you feeling right now, with with everything that’s happened since Saturday?

John: You know, it’s very disheartening. Obviously, we are in communication with our Haitian-born staff that live and work down there and they’re very depressed knowing that it’s going to be even longer before we can come down to to work with them hand in hand.

They’re, you know, they’re obviously very disappointed. They thankfully live in the countryside, which is not within the really boundaries of the gang controlled areas of Port-au-Prince, which for us, at least is some relief.

However, the gangs’ reach is so extensive that they are certainly feeling the supply chain issues and the fear of transporting you know, anything around the country, really locks them into one of the poorest parts of the country and really inaccessible to sort of the the commerce that they have been accustomed to.

Danielle: You know, are you worried for their safety and also for anyone else who might go to Haiti with the Ministry?

John: Yes, it’s a very concerning time for us.

My co-director, Ken Firling, whose been working in Haiti for the last 20 years is actually on his way back.

We just made the decision two weeks ago to begin tiptoeing back into getting some of our local Winter Park leaders down there to further the mission.

And unfortunately, Ken is returning with, you know, sad news that the challenges persist. And that being said, with COVID, we were able to still send things down by DHL. We have a Zoom capability when our people are in one of the larger cities. But even to ask them to drive to Port-au-Prince to pick up a DHL package, which could contain checks to further the programs or important communiques or any sort of, you know, equipment that we would send is it’s untenable, it’s just not safe for them, vehicles are being stopped on the road. And products taken, carte blanche, I mean whole trucks and buses are being stopped. So it’s not safe for people to travel around the country, and particularly to the capitol.

So we’re feeling the impact of this very acutely.

Danielle: With this in mind, how is this gonna change the work that you’re able to do in that country?

John: I think this certainly creates some some pretty significant hurdles.

That being said, because of the way St. Margaret Mary has partnered with these parishioners over the last 20 years. The programs certainly continue without us being there. And if there was any blessing to COVID. And it’s hard to even say that it was that we looked, we figured out how to work remotely with our team there. So we are in communication. As I mentioned, Ken will be coming back tomorrow, or he’s actually on a flight today.

But then tomorrow, we will have a Zoom meeting with all of our parishioner leaders here with our partners in Haiti. So the work continues.

Really the only thing that is lost is the camaraderie of sharing a meal of being together of honestly, us being representatives who have been in country and can can say what a wonderful place Haiti is and how incredible the people are and hardworking and it’s not just what you see on the newsreel. I mean, it is just like America it’s people trying to raise their families and love their church and their community.

And unfortunately, these gangs give the average Haitian a really bad name and create a very unstable environment for them to build a legacy around. So I think we will continue to do the work, the work will continue without us physically being there. But the experience on both ends is certainly less rich without that face-to-face camaraderie.

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Danielle Prieur

About Danielle Prieur

Reporter & Fill-in Host

Danielle Prieur is a general assignment reporter at WMFE. You can hear her reporting on a daily basis on the station. She also fills-in as a host during the morning and afternoon drive times. Her reporting has been featured on NPR, Marketplace, Here & Now, and Vox. Danielle is originally from Rochester Hills, ... Read Full Bio »