The 17 U.S. and Canadian missionaries who were kidnapped by a gang in Haiti in October are all back home and safe, with five released under unspecified circumstances and the final 12 self-liberated in a daring escape last week, Christian Aid Ministries said Monday. The last 12 captives, including an infant and 3-year-old child, escaped last Wednesday night and walked about 10 miles through difficult gang territory, the Ohio-based missionary group said.
"After a number of hours of walking, day began to dawn and they eventually found someone who helped to make a phone call for help," CAM spokesman Weston Showalter told reporters. "They were finally free." None of the 17 missionaries, who were reunited after the Coast Guard flew the 12 escapees to Florida, attended the press conference, but Showalter showed them in a video, singing a hymn. He said none of the captives were physically harmed by gang members.
The 400 Mawozo gang that captured the 16 Americans and their Canadian driver on Oct. 16 demanded $17 million in ransom, and CAM did not say whether any payments were made to secure the release of the first five missionaries. CAM General Director David Troyer said supporters did raise funds for possible ransom, but he did not say if any of the money was used for that purpose.
CAM is staffed and supported by Anabaptists, a category that includes Mennonite, Amish, and related religious groups who typically dress plainly, keep separate from mainstream society, and practice nonviolence and nonresistance to evil. The 17 missionaries captured in Haiti are from Anabaptist communities in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Oregon, and Ontario, CAM said.