AMERICA/HAITI - Sister Marcella: “The gang affiliated with the G9 intends to take over our orphanage to defend itself from attacks from the sea by a rival gang”

Monday, 26 February 2024 banditry   children   nuns  

Port-au-Prince (Agenzia Fides) - "They want to take over our orphanage to defend themselves from assaults from the sea by a rival gang", says to Fides Marcella Catozza, a Franciscan nun, who manages kay Pè Giuss, in the Warf Jeremie shantytown, located in a landfill between the sea and a dark, smelly river. The complex includes a home for orphans, a primary school and a daycare center. In recent days, Sister Marcella and the Via Lattea Foundation, which helps the project, had raised the alarm about the threats of the gang belonging to the G9 coalition (see Fides, 17/2/2024 on Haitian gangs). "For years we have been forced to live with this gang, which has taken over a state vocational training school that has never functioned because the building, which borders our complex, was immediately occupied by these bandits," explains Sister Marcella. "And for years they have been asking us for money and food just to be able to move and allow the children to attend our school," the sister continues. "The situation has become increasingly unbearable. They have stolen our school bus and car, they have built a fence on the access road to our complex, preventing passage. The last request was for $30,000 in food," Sister Marcella continues. "They also prevent the passage of the water truck and we are forced to collect rainwater to cover our needs." "Now they are asking us to leave our center, which houses 150 orphans and is attended by about 450 students from our school.
They are children of street vendors who have nowhere to go while their mothers are away from home. In addition to education, we give them two meals a day," adds the nun. "Unfortunately, the location of our complex has placed us between two fires. On the one hand we have the beach, from where the bandits of the rival group can arrive, and on the other there are the members of the G9, who now want to take over our structure to defend themselves." Meanwhile, on February 23, six Brothers of the Sacred Heart were kidnapped while on their way to the École Jean XXIII mission in Port-au-Prince. A teacher was also kidnapped with them. "Absurd and unjustified violence," states the congregation in a note, which has suspended all activities at the school until further notice. That same day, a priest who had just celebrated mass in the chapel of Our Lady of Fátima, in the Bicentennial neighborhood, was also kidnapped. "I have no first-hand information, but from what I have heard in the Haitian media, this last priest has been released," says Sister Marcella, who concludes by asking everyone not to forget the "atrocious suffering of the Haitian people. Those who can, run away. Ask yourselves why they do it" (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 26/2/2024)