PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (OSV News) — At least six religious sisters and other passengers were kidnapped Jan. 19 when the bus they were on in Port-au-Prince was taken over by gunmen, Vatican News reported, adding that the hostages were “driven to an unknown location.”
“Armed gunmen stopped and boarded the minibus as it was heading to the university taking all passengers hostage. The kidnapping took place … in broad daylight in the center of the capital Port-au-Prince,” Vatican News said. The Haitian Conference of Religious said the nuns are from the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Anne.
“May the spirit of strength be given to the Sisters of St. Anne to find a way out of this terrible situation,” P. Morachel Bonhomme, the conference’s president, said in a statement released to the media.
Pope Francis Jan. 21 appealed for the release of all the hostages, while praying for “social harmony” in the country, Vatican News reported. In remarks after the Angelus, he said he had “learned with sorrow the news of the kidnapping” of the sisters and the others. “I call on everyone to stop the violence, which causes so much suffering to that dear population.”
Bishop Pierre-André Dumas of Anse-à-Veau and Miragoâne condemned the kidnapping in a statement, calling it the “latest odious and barbaric act that shows no respect for the dignity of these consecrated women who give themselves wholeheartedly and completely to God to educate and form the young, the poorest and the most vulnerable of our society.” He called for the immediate release of the hostages.
The gunmen were not immediately identified but they were believed to be gang members. By some estimates, gangs have taken over about taken over about 80% of the Port-au-Prince area.