Holier than Thou: Missionaries Behaving Badly

By Bryan Schaaf on Saturday, April 14, 2007.
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bible Ladies and Gentlemen, Meysedam:

If you will only ever read one of my blogs, then I hope this is the one. It is not often that I see something that makes my blood boil, but below you will find an email that turned my stomach with disgust and anger.

Let’s talk about this email. I’ve met many missionaries while in Haiti. Most flights to Haiti have at least a handful, while at other times, it seems the plane is half full with them.

Some of them I had a lot of respect for – mainly the ones who had respect for the Haitian people. I have met some who were well-integrated into their communities, were making a real difference, and were pleasant to be around.

And then there are others who are culturally insensitive racists who don’t fit into the United States so regard Haiti as a spiritual sandbox in which to frolic. Take for example the missionaries who shared my village – they were furious that I was teaching teenagers in my community about contraceptives and held prayer circles to purge the evil thinking of “family planning” from their minds. When I asked what their solution to HIV/AIDS was, they suggested everyone should come to their church instead. You can’t make this stuff up.

The man who wrote this widely circulated email works for a religious NGO (Names have been removed to protect the guilty) Note the first paragraph. He identifies Haiti as “ground zero” of spiritual warfare because Haiti has voodoo. Brazil, Cuba, and other Latin American countries have similar religions. Yet, Haiti is the only one that is poor, black, and a stone’s throw from the United States.

What does he know about Vodoun? Does he realize Haitians would not have won their independence without it? Does he realize that people who practice voodoo also believe in God? Does he realize that voodoo is a spiritual lifeline to Africa – a way of holding onto one’s roots and saying that there is a part of one’s soul that is not European, not American, but African. But no, for this reader, to be saved one must be exactly like him.

And to be like him, there will be no dancing, no drinking, no ribald jokes. In effect, to take part in his belief system a Haitian would cease to be Haitian. Wheras with voodoo, the locus of the religion is Africa, the locus of this man’s religion is America. Perhaps Nebraksa, or wherever it is that the money flows from which pays for the scholarships, the meal a day, or whatever other benefit gets one to come to the Protestant churches. Note to readers: I have no problem with Protestant religions, but it is well established that Protestants tend to offer “things” while Catholics mainly offer the comfort of being a part of the majority although that dominance is being eroded. One key difference here – a person can be Catholic and Vodouisant at the same time while a person may not be Protestant and participate in Vodoun.

You can see how he uses a slash to equate Vodoun and Satan together. To him, the two are interchangeable. Someone has been watching way too many movies. Observe how he stereotypes the practitioners of Vodou who counter-protested as “witch doctors”.

He notes that Haitian have mostly nothing. Well, from a very material perspective he is correct. Haitians have very little. My Haitian counterparts, however, have their pride, their families, their faith, and though often frustrated by events out of their control, happiness. Nothing compared to a corvette though.

He then expresses happiness at having a job that allows him the flexibility to go to places like Haiti and do God’s calling. Would that Haitians had that flexibility to come to the United States. I was always amazed at how naïve foreigners could be about Haitians religious beliefs. The assumption of some missionaries was that atheism was rife in Haiti. I remember a missionary who stopped his car to ask me what I was doing as I was hiking along a road on the Plateau. I replied that I lived there and asked him what he was doing – he said he had come to “bring the word”. The word was already there, and Haitians are a religious folk. Perhaps they would be effective missionaries for the United States?

One would be hard pressed to find a single village in Haiti without multiple churches. No clinic or library but certainly churches. My village had about six or seven. Then again, my neighborhood in Washington DC probably has about that many.

He closes by stating that Haiti is losing its bondage. When I see an email like this, I feel like this man is trying to put bonds on Haiti. In effect, he is saying that Haitians should not just be American, but think and behave like him.

Times like this I feel like an anti-missionary, I want to tell people that they are good enough – that they can believe in God while believing in their history, their culture, their music, in short, believing in themselves.

This individual may have things to give to Haiti, but not his respect. Can there be friendship without respect? Doubtful.

I’ll close by saying Haiti is a very special country. I learned a lot from my Haitian friends and family – living there has changed me for the better.

Welcome your thoughts on religion, globalization, Vodoun, or on why I am going to hell or to heaven. Thanks for reading.

Bryan

From: XXXXXXXXX
Sent: Monday, April 09, 2007 8:46 PM
To: XXXXXXXXXXXX
Subject: HAITI NEWS

Dear Haiti Prayer Warriors, here is some exciting news about revival in Haiti,

Thank you to everyone for your prayers while we were in Haiti. This weekend, as you know, I was in Haiti documenting the nation’s movement from Voodoo to Jesus. We witnessed "ground zero" of spiritual warfare and I can say with confidence that this country is changing for God.

The last four days myself, and two friends witnessed rallies in the city of Port au Prince filled with praise and worship for Jesus. Each night over 40,000 Haitian people showed up to participate in the Christian revival. Saturday night, we witnessed the Haitian people dedicate the country to Jesus Christ, deny Voodoo/Satan, and ask for forgiveness for their wicked ways of their fathers. One of the members of our team spoke at the rally Sunday night. Yesterday (Monday), we marched for miles all through the! city of Port au Prince with well over 100,000 Haitians signing praises to God, denouncing the devil and Voodoo, and preaching about the victory in Jesus. Voodoo witch doctors were demonstrating against the Christians, but they were heavily out numbered. I have never seen or heard anything like what I saw this week. Words cannot describe the joy in Jesus among the Haitian people who, by the way, have virtually nothing.

We documented these extraordinary moments with an HD camera, which will hopefully be finished in early May and I hope that everyone will get to see it. It is truly an inspiring story that has changed me and will change many people who get to hear about this little country turning from their traditional Voodoo roots to Jesus. I thank God for blessing me with this experience and with a great job that is flexible enough to allow me to go to places like Haiti in response to ! God's calling.

God is in Haiti, God is in Haiti, God is in Haiti! I can't say it enough after what we seen this weekend. The bondage of Voodoo is losing the battle over there. Please continue to pray for the people of Haiti.

John

The M Word (Lee Rainboth, Green Mango Blog)

http://leerainboth.wordpress.com/
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Missionary. The term sends chills down my spine. In general, I dislike the term, but when it gets associated to me, I especially despise it. That doesn’t mean that I hate missionaries. I have a lot of good friends who proudly welcome the title and I respect the work that they do in this world with a high degree. I personally, however, would prefer not to be put in that same category that they put themselves in. And yet, it seems that others have a tendency to put me in that category over and over again.
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I don’t know why, exactly. I have never told anyone that I am a missionary. I have never filled out the occupation line on any form with that word. But because of where I come from, or what I am perceived to believe, or the people that happen to support what I do, that is the box that many people choose to put me into. That mixed with the current situation that I choose to live and work in and people’s limited understanding of what that life and work encompasses, causes for a lot of false definitions to be applied to me.
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It’s one of those terms that tends to draw unnecessary lines between Me and You. The word itself implies that I’m doing something that You couldn’t do, that I have something to give that You need whether You asked for it or not. For many the word conjures up images of the missionary hopping off the plane with a puffed out chest, hands on hips Superman -style, a cross necklace around his neck, and a cheesy smile on his face that says, “Everything’s going to be okay now, I’m here!” Now, I know that the reality is that this is not how most missionaries operate these days. Many missionaries have adapted to changing cultures and thus adapted their methods of serving those they’ve been sent to serve with a sense of humility and an effort towards learning to live in solidarity and communion with those who are culturally different than they are. But whether it’s a missionary that fits the offensive cliché or one that has found new ways to make a respectable difference in people’s lives, it’s still not me.
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Everyone comes into this country with intentions of “mission” “helping” “service” “ministry” “aid” and all of these mindsets keep drawing the dark, insurmountable lines that separate us from each other. The ones providing the service and the ones being served are clearly not in the same category. There are always “those less fortunate” and those with “something to offer”. I try to be about something different I’m not all about mission, or social justice, or aid or relief, or doing unto the least of these. I’m just about living my life with other humans. I happen to live that life in a place where the people around me have had much different opportunities than I have had from birth and face much different struggles from day to day. As an artist this means that my artwork takes a much different route than most as we all search for beauty to communicate and a space to communicate it in.
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I think that this world needs fewer missionaries and more humans living life with other humans. Fewer humanitarians and more neighbors. Fewer aid workers and more friends. I know this seems like a point of view of someone who lives with rose colored glasses glued to his face, that we could ever actually exist in this world without looking so much at our cultural, racial, ethnic, religious, and other barriers. But let’s be serious, isn’t it the only way we’ll ever make any progress together? Help does not equal Progress. Coexistence might equal Progress. If you’re going to play the missionary game, and you want to help people find the Kingdom of God, that’s never going to happen by me showing/telling/giving you what I perceive you to need. It’s going to happen by me walking alongside you as we both struggle to discover the beauty within life in this big old messed up world that we find ourselves in.
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Some of my supporters in their churches back in the states who sometimes write out checks for mission purposes for me, who’ve heard me speak in their services after their pastors have introduced me as a missionary, like to say that I am one because God has clearly called me to do this work here in Haiti. That makes their mission monies justifiably used on me. And maybe it’s true, that God called me here, but I don’t feel that that makes me a missionary. God called me to be an artist. And that’s what I’m doing. I’m just doing it in a place that has historically been a target for missionaries. I’m an artist who bought a plane ticket but buying a plane ticket doesn’t make me a missionary either. I don’t think that God put any of us on this earth to be missionaries, humanitarians, or aid workers. He put people on this earth to be artists, and rappers, and fashion models, and actors, and doctors, and farmers, and pastors, and teachers, and secretaries, and engineers, and businessmen, and whatever else; it’s up to us to discover the environments where we can be those things in a way that makes the most use out of their potential. For me, as an artist, at this moment, Haiti is that environment. From there I can use my art to search for souls to invest in. I think that’s the challenge that we each face no matter what we call ourselves or where we find ourselves geographically. Discover what we were created to be and then be it, boldly, fearlessly, dangerously, to everyone we meet. Invest in their souls and just live. Just live, just be, and quit doing. That’s my mission.

Top Ten Fashion Crimes Committed by Mission Teams in Haiti

July 2012
The Green Mango Blog
By Lee Rainboth
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http://leerainboth.wordpress.com/
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So, you’ve decided to make a trip to Haiti to help the people there? Great! But now what do you pack to wear while you’re there? They’re all poor down there and don’t have money for clothes anyway, so it really shouldn’t matter what you wear, right? Wrong! After living in Haiti for 5 years I have witnessed far too many foreign visitors to the country blemish their good intentions for the people with poor fashion choices. The Haitians may seem like some of the most welcoming, friendly, warm people on earth when you are treating their illnesses, and repairing their homes, and hugging their children. But as soon as you turn you’re back you can be sure that they are criticizing your wrinkled cargo pants and your wide brim hat. For me, as a long term representative within the culture for all who are outside of the culture, it is embarrassing to see so many of my fellow foreigners demonstrate so poorly the rest of the world’s taste in fashion. Haitians are extremely sensitive to what’s ala mode, whether they can afford it or not and they expect you who can afford a plane ticket to come help them to be able to buy a pair of shorts that at least fits appropriately. So I have compiled this list as a warning of what not to do if you are thinking of visiting this Caribbean country. Please consider this advice carefully while you are packing for your trip. Your reputation and that of our entire race depends upon it.
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1. Matching T-shirts
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This trend among mission teams to the country makes my heart hurt every time I pass through the airport in Port-au-Prince. There is always at least 2 or 3 groups of people in brightly colored, poorly designed, T-shirts labeled with some cheesy theme about Haiti using a lot of alliteration. “Hope for Haiti’s Helpless” “Hearts and Hands for Haiti” “Healing Haiti Mission of Mercy” And so on. I understand you want to be able to find each other in the airport, but whatever happened to picking a meeting place through the phone or email? In order to be seen in the airport you have to make the shirts out of the ugliest most obnoxious colors possible. Trust me, you get noticed. Aside from being ugly, once you’ve arrived in the country these team uniforms also give off the impression that you are on more of a group retreat than a trip to invest in the local people that you will encounter and learn from their culture. And if you think writing a stupid message in Creole on your matching t-shirts will remedy that, wrong again. You will just come off as naive to all of the Haitians because they all already know that “Jesi renmen ou.” Only slightly less offensive are matching team caps or totes.
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2. Safari Gear
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Haiti is not the Australian Outback or the savannah in East Africa. You will be seeing no wild animals here so no need to dress up like Jack Hannah. If you are going to be doing some work project to help the Haitian people you do not need head to toe khaki, pockets for binoculars or vents in every seam. You do not need to wear an outfit that only wild animals can appreciate. You need to wear an outfit that your fellow human beings that you will be serving and working alongside can appreciate.
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3. Gym clothes
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Are you going to PE class or are you going into a culture full of creative, beautiful people? If the latter is true, then please leave the gym shorts and sweat stained sleeveless t-shirts at home in the hamper. Perhaps you can bring one pair to sleep in, or if you plan to be doing heavy labor on a worksite. But, as soon as the work is done, rinse your smelly self off and put on some real clothes! If you abuse the freedom to wear comfy exercise gear in this culture you run the risk of portraying all foreigners as careless slobs.
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4. Cleavage, Short shorts, and Undershirts
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I know that Haitians will bathe in the river in front of anyone that wants to watch, the women will whip their breast out to feed their child in mid conversation with you, and they all will simply take a step to the side to pee while you are right next to them, but this does not mean that anyone wants to see your whitey white skin in all of it’s glory. I’m not saying that you have to cover up like a conservative religious cult, but try to maintain a little modesty for the sake of our race, okay? Women with ample chests, cover them puppies up. Teenage girls, keep the shorts at least finger length. And guys who think you can show off your biceps on the worksite, please don’t. Remember, even if you see the Haitians taking their clothes off, they have nicer bodies than you do and they blend in with their surroundings better than you do. You don’t get to follow the same rules as they do. Skimpy outfits are only acceptable at the beach where pretty much anything goes (Still doesn’t make that speedo a good idea Mr. Pasty Frenchman).
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5. Peasant skirts and Moo-moos
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In contrast to #4 many overly considerate religious folk take the modesty too far and cover themselves up with ridiculous clothes that don’t even fit their bodies. Someone told all the youngsters before they came not to wear anything too revealing in order to be mindful of the local culture. So they raid their grandma’s closets and end up wearing clothes that are a very poor representation of their own culture’s generation. When this happens the young adults in Haiti feel unable to relate to their visiting peers because they dress so strangely. It’s possible to dress age appropriate, figure flattering, and still culturally appropriate. Don’t be in a haste to run to your nearest second hand store to buy them out of peasant skirts and moo-moos before your trip. Whatever you already have in your closet already is perfect.
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6. Dirty Clothes
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It’s true, water is hard to come by in most places in Haiti and doing laundry can be a complicated all day event. But trust me, the Haitians hosting you will be happy to go get some water and spend the day washing your clothes so that you don’t look like a beggar when you take to the streets. They’ll do it because their reputations depend on it too. If they have visitors staying with them and they don’t keep their clothes clean for them, then they are looked upon as inhospitable by the rest of the community. If it would be too dirty to wear in public in the US, then don’t wear it in public in Haiti. Don’t think that just because everything else in the country is filthy that you get to be too and no one will notice. You wear an item of clothing once, it’s probably already too dirty to wear again. You might be able to get away with putting jeans on a second time, but don’t push it. In this same idea, smelling good is just as important for your reception by the Haitian people. Sure, it sounds shallow, but if the work shirt that you’re wearing smells like you’ve been carrying 2×4′s all week, you won’t be making any friends in Haiti. Also, please don’t use the lack of water as an excuse to not bathe! Haitians typically bathe at least once a day, many times twice or even three times. So if you only bathe twice in the week that you’re here, they will be ashamed of you. You are expected to be an example of hygiene and health. Take a bath!
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7. Bulky Work Boots
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Okay Lumberjack Joe, what’s up with wearing the cargo-ship-sized work boots everywhere you go in Haiti? It’s not a good look anywhere. You can maybe get away with it if you are working on a project where it’s possible to drop something heavy on your toe, but even then it’s a little over the top. Take a look at the footwear of the Haitian laborers on the site with you and you’ll realize just how silly your giant workboots look. Put them on with high white crew socks and khaki cargo shorts and you’ve just become the poster child for an outsider trying to do good things for the people of Haiti with absolutely no effort to adapting to the local culture. Here’s what to pack for footwear to Haiti: two pairs of sandals – one pair of plastic ones for bathing and the beach and one nicer sturdier pair for spending time at your host location or easy walks around the neighborhood, one pair of good tennis shoes for where you’re working, and one pair of dress shoes to wear to church.
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8. No Church Clothes
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It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Christian or not, you’re probably going to be expected to go to church while in Haiti and when you do, you can’t wear just anything. You cannot wear the same clothes that you’ve been wearing around the community all week. Bring something special to wear to church. Most churches in the US these days are a little more relaxed with their dress code, but in Haiti they go all out on Sunday morning and they will expect you to too. Especially if you are a Christian, then you want to be perceived as taking your religion seriously and if you show up in an outfit that’s too casual you will be seen as disrespectful.
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9. Hawaiian Print
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There’s a reason why they call it “Hawaiian” print. It should probably only be worn in Hawaii on a golf course or on a beach while sipping pina coladas. It’s true that Haiti has mesmerizing blue Caribbean waters and beautiful beaches and really good rum to be sipped under the coconut trees, but you are not going to be on a tropical vacation getaway when coming to this island. Your Hawaiian print shirt will only say “out of touch” or “I got lost on the way to Maui”.
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10. Wearing Only What You Intend to Leave Behind
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If an item of clothing isn’t nice enough for you to want to keep it, a Haitian probably isn’t going to want to hold on to it either. I encourage giving away clothes that you feel you can sacrifice, but make sure they’re quality. Also make sure that you do not pack your entire suitcase with only things that you intend to give away when you leave. You should bring a few things to wear while you’re in Haiti that are too nice to give away. You should bring a few things that you look so good in that you simply can’t part with them. Also, when you do give those other clothes away realize that you’re not doing it because the Haitians actually need your used clothes, but because they simply like clothes enough that they will take whatever you give them. Everyone likes a “new” t-shirt.
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Overall, my rule is, whatever you would normally wear in the US, wear that same thing in Haiti. Don’t feel like you’re going to offend Haitians by looking good. They’ll appreciate you putting a little effort into your style and so will all of us long-termers on the ground who are always left to explain your fashion choices after you leave.

23rd Man Sues Fairfield University in Haitian Sex Abuse Case

7/17/2012
By EDMUND H. MAHONY And JOSH KOVNER,
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A 23rd Haitian man has sued Fairfield University and affiliated religious and charitable organizations for sexual abuse they suffered as children in a residential school in Haiti founded and operated by a university alumnus who later was prosecuted as a pedophile. The parade of lawsuits grew out of the abuse of destitute children living at Project Pierre Toussaint, a charity founded in Cap Haitien by Fairfield University graduate Douglas Perlitz. As the previous cases have charged, Mackenson Michael alleges in the latest federal complaint that Perlitz used his "trust and authority to sexually molest (Mackenson) and numerous other minor boys who attended PPT."
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The complaint, by lawyer Mitchell Garabedian of Boston, says Perlitz also "threatened to withhold food and shelter from the impoverished children in his care if they did not comply with their sexual demands, in effect forcing them to earn their food and shelter by trading sexual favors for those necessities." The series of lawsuits all assert that the university; the Society of Jesus of New England, which operates the university; the charity's board; and individuals associated with both the school and the charity were able to influence Perlitz but failed to stop abuse that was known to residential staff in Haiti. "They disregarded warning signs that should have alerted them to the improper nature of Perlitz's relationship with some of the boys in his care,'' Garabedian alleges. Garabedian said Tuesday that 21 of the victims were abused after the National Catholic Conference of Bishops adopted new policies for the protection of children in 2002. "The new norms and policies were neither adhered to nor implemented and therefore children were and are still at risk,'' Garabedian said.
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Perlitz was sentenced two years ago to more than 19 years in prison for abusing as many as 18 of the boys he admitted to his residential charity. Prosecutors said he threatened to return boys to the streets of the hemisphere's poorest nation if they refused his demands. The abuse took place over about a decade beginning in the late 1990s. The lawsuits contend that Perlitz's charitable operation in Haiti drew significant support, financial and otherwise, from Fairfield University and the larger religious community associated with the Jesuit school. The financial support in particular gave donors access to and control over Perlitz's operation, according to Garabedian.. During the period the abuse took place, the suits assert, the university contributed $57,000 to the charity and the Jesuits contributed $600,000. At the same time, the suits say the Jesuits assigned priests in training to work at Project Pierre Toussaint, and the university arranged for volunteers to work there.
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The frequent travel to and from Haiti should have alerted church and school officials to the abuse, the suit contends. It was widely known on the campus of the residential school in Haiti, the suit contends, that Perlitz was spending nights with boys. In some cases, boys complained to the charity's staff and their cries of pain could be heard at night from Perlitz's bedroom, according to the suits. The lawsuits, filed in behalf of 21 now-adult Haitian men by lawyers from New Haven, Boston and New York, seek tens of millions of dollars in damages. Fairfield University disputes the allegations. The school said it supported Project Pierre Toussaint's stated mission to assist impoverished children. But Fairfield was not affiliated with and did not have supervisory authority over the charity, Stanley Twardy, the university's lawyer, said Thursday.
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The charity's Connecticut-based board, the Haiti Fund, was led by Paul E. Carrier, a priest who was once the Fairfield University chaplain. But Twardy said the charity's board operated independent of the school. He said the donated money was raised by passing collection baskets at campus church services. Lawyers for the other organizations and individuals named in the suits did not respond to requests for information. At the time he was sentenced, Perlitz blamed his abuse of children on what he called a "dark and abusive" relationship he had with a priest while a student at Fairfield University. Although Perlitz did not publicly identify the priest, the lawsuits filed this week claim that Perlitz told some of his victims that "Carrier was the one who introduced Perlitz to homosexual activities when Perlitz was a student."
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The suits also contend that, as a frequent visitor to Project Pierre Toussaint, Carrier knew that boys were sleeping in Perlitz's bedroom and that Perlitz played a pornographic video for at least one boy. The charity's board, while Carrier was chairman, twice conducted sham inquiries intended to cover up evidence of abuse, the suits contend. Another board member, Hope Carter, flew to Haiti in 2008 at the request of Perlitz and removed a personal computer from his residence, the suits contend. The FBI later found the computer at a home in Colorado, where Perlitz had moved. Agents determined that Perlitz used the computer to access pornographic material concerning boys. The FBI was aware of the removal of the computer more than two years ago and did not charge Carter.

Pastor Indicted on Sexual Abuse Charges of Haitian Girls

5/21/2012
WBTV
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Gaston County, NC-- A former Gaston County pastor was denied bond after he pleaded not guilty to sexually abusing Haitian girls while running a ministry in Haiti. Indictments read in federal court on Monday stated that Larry Michael Bollinger, 66 traveled to Haiti to engage in sexual conduct with a girl younger than 18 years old. The indictment was handed up last week against Bollinger, but according to WBTV in Charlotte new information was released during the hearing today. According to investigators, Bollinger was in Haiti working as the director of the Hope House, which provided food, shelter and schooling for Haitian children. And when four young girls from Port au Prince came to the Hope House for help, investigators said Bollinger sexually abused the young girls, trading them help for sexual favors.
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The incidents allegedly occurred in Haiti between August 1 and November 18 of 2009. Bollinger denied the allegations in court on Monday and entered a plea of not guilty. About 25-30 from Bollinger's church and his wife were in court to support him. Bollinger's two adult children did not appear to be in court, according to WBTV. Bollinger was the Pastor at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. The current Pastor also attended the court hearing on Bollinger's behalf. Investigators say the allegations came to light when Bollinger went to visit his psychotherapist to seek treatment for sex addition. He reportedly told his therapist about the young girls in Haiti, which legally had to be reported to federal authorities. WBTV learned that investigators began looking into the allegations, but Haiti was hit by a massive deadly earthquake just weeks after Bollinger returned home. The disaster slowed investigators, who weren't even sure if the reported victims had survived the earthquake. The victims were eventually located and gave their side of the story.

More Lawsuits Filed Over Sex Abuse of Haitian Boys (AP - 1/6/11)

Associated Press
By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN
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Seventeen Haitian men are suing Fairfield University in Connecticut, the Society of Jesus and others alleging they failed to protect them from a man who sexually abused them when they were poor children or young adults attending a school he founded in Haiti. The lawsuits bring to 21 the number of alleged victims suing Douglas Perlitz and the others. Perlitz was sentenced in 2010 to nearly 20 years in prison for sexually abusing children at Project Pierre Toussaint. The victims ranged from ages 9 to 21 at the time of the abuse and are now 18 to 29. The lawsuits seek $20 million for each victim. They contend Perlitz's supervisors disregarded warning signs of inappropriate behavior with boys. The Rev. Paul Carrier, a Jesuit priest who was Fairfield University's chaplain, saw Perlitz show a student a pornographic video and saw boys in his bedroom, according to the lawsuits. A school board member, Hope Carter, flew to Haiti in 2008 and removed Perlitz's computer, according to the lawsuits. "It appears that Carter removed the computer or computers to prevent investigators, including, ultimately, federal law enforcement personnel, from discovering pornographic material, which may have included pornography relating to young boys, stored on the computer or computers," the lawsuit states. Carter delivered the computer to Perlitz in the United States, according to the lawsuit. Authorities later seized the computer, which Perlitz had used to access websites focusing on sexual material relating to boys. Federal authorities say an investigation is continuing.
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The lawsuits say none of the defendants took any steps to protect the children in Perlitz's care. "On the contrary, they facilitated Perlitz's crimes by continuing to provide him money and facilities to run PPT in the face of evidence that Perlitz was maintaining inappropriate relationships with boys in his care," the lawsuit states. The Society of Jesus called the crimes "deeply disturbing" but said the school wasn't a mission of the society, also known as the Jesuits. Telephone messages were left Thursday for the other defendants. The defendants have sought dismissals of the first lawsuits filed last year. Fairfield University said it did not retain or employ Perlitz and that Carrier was a volunteer officer of the Haitian school, which is separate from the university. Carrier also called himself a volunteer and argued he's immune from liability and that there was no evidence he knew of the abuse. Carter's attorney said there was no allegation that Carter knew of any sexual misconduct by Perlitz or that Carter "consciously assisted" Perlitz's abuse. The lawsuits argue that Fairfield University, which is operated by the Jesuits, raised more than $600,000 for the school and hired Perlitz in connection with the Haitian school and was negligent in its duty to supervise him. The suits say the Society of Jesus had the same responsibilities with Carrier, who served as chairman of a fund that ran the school. Those who were abused by Perlitz told school staff, according to the lawsuit. Carrier and Carter failed to speak to the victims in a setting where they could feel safe about reporting what had happened, the suits say. The school conducted an investigation after learning of the abuse claims in 2007 and 2008, but that probe was designed to discredit the claims and exonerate Perlitz, according to the lawsuits. Carrier and Carter prevented other school board members from questioning independent witnesses, the lawsuit alleges. Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney for the victims, said the abuse shows rules put into place by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002 were either ignored or ineffective

Florida Ministry Sued Over Abuse Allegations in Haiti (12/19/11)

Associated Press
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A Florida Panhandle ministry is being sued over alleged sexual abuse at a Haitian orphanage whose finances it manages. A lawsuit filed in Escambia Circuit Court claims Globe International Ministries failed to train, vet and monitor workers at the Father's Hands Children's Home in Port-de-Paix, Haiti. The lawsuit was filed last month by two sets of parents who adopted 11 children from the orphanage. The parents say a Globe missionary and other orphanage workers abused the children. The parents' attorney, Bobby Bradford, tells the Pensacola News-Journal (http://on.pnj.com/saXiRq) they're seeking the cost of counseling for their children. Globe's president provided the newspaper with 2010 letters sent to adoptive parents stating that an investigative task force deemed the allegations "undoubtedly true" but providing counseling was beyond the ministry's means and responsibility.

Michigan Man Accused of Abusing Haitian Children (6/24/2011)

Associated Press
By JENNIFER KAY
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MIAMI -- A Michigan man who ran a residential school for poor children and orphans in Haiti has been indicted on charges of child sex tourism, federal prosecutors said Friday. Matthew Andrew Carter, 66, of Brighton, Mich., forced boys at the Morning Star Center, which provided food, shelter and education, to engage in sexual conduct in exchange for gifts, money or continued care, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami said. Carter has been in custody since his arrest May 8 in Miami on a charge of traveling from the U.S. to Haiti for the purpose of engaging in sexual conduct with minors. A grand jury indicted Carter on May 19, and a superseding indictment filed Thursday added three additional counts. If convicted, Carter faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison for one count of child sex tourism and a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for each of the other counts. Carter's federal public defender did not immediately return messages from The Associated Press. Carter had run the school in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince since the mid-1990s, and he regularly traveled between the Caribbean country and the U.S. to fundraise, according to court documents.
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Fourteen boys currently live at the school full-time, and three others live there on the weekends, the documents said. Most of the children's families sent them to Carter's center to receive support and educational opportunities that they could not afford, while other boys were orphans, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Alvaro Flores wrote in a May 4 criminal complaint. Carter engaged in illicit sexual conduct with at least eight former and current students from the mid-1990s through April, according to the criminal complaint. He allegedly forced the students to engage in sexual acts in exchange for gifts, money or continued care. "This defendant preyed on innocent Haitian children living in severely depressed conditions, making his conduct particularly deplorable," said U.S. Attorney Wilfredo Ferrer in a statement Friday. "Rather than using Morning Star as he promised - to administer aid and provide sanctuary to needy children - he used the center to manipulate, abuse and sexually exploit them."
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One of the students told investigators that the sexual abuse continued for six years, beginning when he was 10. The student said Carter stopped buying him clothing, shoes and books when, at age 16, he refused to perform any more sexual acts on Carter, Flores wrote in the complaint. Another student said that Carter would threaten to send other boys back to their families and poverty if they refused to perform sexual acts with him, Flores wrote. Yet another student reported Carter beating him with a stick when he refused Carter's instructions for sexual acts. A friend of Carter's, Bertha Wiles of Brighton, Mich., 50 miles west of Detroit, said Carter rarely visits and spends most of his time in Haiti. "The Lord spoke to our hearts and we take him in whenever he visits," Wiles, 70, said. "The FBI guys came to our house. This is all a lie. This man would never do that. I don't care what they try to put on him. There's just a whole bunch of things that are not true." Carter's trial is scheduled to begin July 5.

Society of Jesus Sued for Sex Abuse in Haiti (4/18/2011)

Associated Press
By John Christoffersen
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NEW HAVEN, Conn. – A federal lawsuit seeking $20 million in damages was filed Monday against Fairfield University, the Society of Jesus and a Colorado man sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison for sexually abusing children at a school he founded in Haiti. The lawsuit was filed by one of Douglas Perlitz's accusers. It maintains that Fairfield University, the Jesuit order and other defendants were negligent in hiring and supervising Perlitz in the work he did in Haiti. And it accuses other defendants, some of them not named, of aiding Perlitz's efforts to cover up the abuse. Alice Poltorick, a spokeswoman for the Society of Jesus, New England, called Perlitz' actions "deeply disturbing" and said the order would "work to address this claim diligently and with great sensitivity towards any individual who was harmed by Mr. Perlitz." Officials at Fairfield University, which put its employees on the fundraising arm of the Haitian school, declined to comment, saying they hadn't yet seen the lawsuit. A message left for an attorney for Perlitz wasn't immediately returned.
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Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney for the accuser, said he represents 20 more children who will file complaints in the near future. He said Perlitz's supervisors, including a Jesuit priest who was Fairfield University's chaplain, were in Haiti and knew or should have known about the abuse. Poltorick said that priest has been restricted from any ministry pending the order's investigation into the matter. Garabedian declined to comment on details beyond the lawsuit. Perlitz was sentenced in December for sexually abusing children for more than a decade at the school. Some of his victims faced him in the courtroom and testified that he threatened to put them back on the streets if they did not submit to his advances. Perlitz, 40, apologized to his victims while speaking in Creole before the sentence was handed down. He said he knew his crimes were horrible but pleaded for leniency nevertheless, asking the judge to consider the good work he did in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
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Perlitz admitted in August that he engaged in illicit sexual conduct with eight children who attended the Project Pierre Toussaint School for homeless children in Cap-Haitien. Prosecutors said Perlitz gave the children money, food, clothing and electronics and threatened to take everything away and expel them from the program if they told anyone. A judge said she believed there were at least 16 victims, based on testimony that authorities recorded on video by others who attended the school. Now a resident of Eagle, Colo., Perlitz founded the Haiti school in 1997 when he lived in Fairfield County, Conn. Authorities said he began abusing the children, some as young as 11, in 1998 before the school was built. The abuse scandal led to the collapse of the school and its fundraising arm, the Haiti Fund, forcing the children back into homelessness on the streets, prosecutors said.

No Sanctuary at This Haitian Church (11/8/2010)

AOL News
By Emily Troutman
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The water in Haiti's seaside town of Leogane rose to the doorsteps of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But if you're local, and homeless, you needn't have bothered coming here for help. Help is for Mormons only. Hurricane Tomas swiped the western coast of Haiti late last week, and three days of rain brought massive flooding to many towns, including Leogane. The U.N. estimates 1,500 people in the city were displaced by the flood, most of whom have been living in temporary tents since the Jan. 12 earthquake. The LDS church is one of the biggest and most modern buildings in Leogane, with the capacity to safely hold and protect 200. The church's hurricane policy? Only church members can seek shelter there. On Friday, 36 congregants and family members slept at the church.
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They didn't receive food or water, sleeping mats or mattresses. On Friday afternoon, a dozen women sat on the ground and in chairs outside, underneath the shadow of the church's enormous satellite dish, while church staff more or less ignored them. Floodwaters from Hurricane Tomas, which brushed Haiti's west coast last week, rise to the driveway of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Leogane, Haiti. The storm displaced an estimated 1,500 people, but the church offered refuge only to people who were members.
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The Mormon church in Leogane has the capacity to hold 200 people, but 36 people slept there on Friday, the day the storm began. One local woman who belongs to the church and took shelter there said she thought the church's members-only policy was wrong. "It's not normal, as a Christian, Tanya Favery said. "But I'm not the decider." Matthieu Chrisner, the congregation's leader, said the reasons behind the policy were "very complex" and came from regional church headquarters. Haiti's Department of Civil Protection used the church's driveway for a base during the storm. The workers were supposed to tell people where to find shelter, but they don't know where any shelters were.
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The church did not welcome non-Mormon community members, and did not extend much comfort to its own church family. The policy reflects two common realities in Haiti: First, charity is complicated by a seemingly endless sea of need; and second, many churches are here to serve only themselves, not the community at large. "It's not simple," said Matthieu Chrisner, adviser to the bishop, the leader of the local congregation. Letting people take shelter here "is a very complex decision, and a lot of people would have to agree. It's a chain of authority that reaches the headquarters in the Central Caribbean." If I had a group of children right now who needed a shelter? "For now, we can have members of this church and their parents," he replied. If they were disabled? "I would have to ask at another level," Chrisner said. "There is a committee. Really, it's a committee inside of some other committees. It goes through the bishop, then a committee process ... then, there's no way to know if it's longer or shorter. I can't tell you how long it would take for an answer."
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A local Mormon mother, 25-year-old Tanya Favery, sought shelter here before the storm. She thinks the Mormon-only policy is wrong, but she is resigned to her role, as a grateful beneficiary, and doesn't question the authority of the bishop. "It's not normal, as a Christian," Favery said. "It should've been done otherwise. People could've come here and found Christ. But I'm not the decider." In an interview, Bishop Pierre-Louis Yves told AOL News his church wasn't welcoming any hurricane victims at all. The church volunteered its premises as a point of coordination for the Department of Civil Protection. He said the 36 people staying at his church were support staff for civil protection employees. People interviewed at the church denied that.
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For their part, the eight or 12 rotating civil protection staff, part of a team of more than 100, moved in and out of the parking lot. None of them slept at the church. They, too, didn't question the scene -- a pristine building, with virtually no outreach to the community. "It's not shelter, it's a Mormon church," a church employee said. The phrase was repeated over and over by many in the neighborhood, as people seemed not to understand that in a hurricane in Haiti, any building capable of withstanding wind and rain is a potential shelter. Most other shelters were either schools or churches, many of which were far more modest than the LDS facility.
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The government of Haiti estimated that the western region had shelters for 20,000, but post-hurricane, many are wondering what that number means and how exactly it was calculated. Before the storm hit, government employees with bullhorns, as well as radio disc jockeys, told people to seek shelter or risk their lives. But people were not told where to go. Unless they knew a friend with room in their house, most were frozen in place. Numerous employees of the Department of Civil Protection, who have been working in the neighborhood of the church, said there were other places besides the LDS church for people to go. But when questioned, they couldn't name or identify any. One employee said he knew there was a map with shelters on it, but he had never seen a copy. "I think the mayor has a copy," he said. A U.N. official said the world organization would help facilitate any building that wants to be a shelter, by providing water and sanitation, as well as distribution of food, to ensure people are provided with basic services. But no building is required to be a hurricane shelter just because it is safe, the official said.
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Local charities that work in Leogane were not aware of the church's policy. Stefanie Chang, with All Hands, a U.S.-based charity operating in the area, said she felt most people in Leogane who sought shelter were able to find it, since many decided to stay home and ride out the storm. The bishop pointed out that the church had been a shelter for earthquake victims. But this time, he came to an agreement with the mayor of Leogane that the church would host a small office for government employees, instead of its homeless neighbors. f a church is not also a shelter in a storm, what is it? There are thousands of churches in Haiti, many of which were started, like this one, by missionaries. Their relationship to local civic life -- as it exists in Haiti -- is far different than it would be in a developed country. Religious institutions have enormous power here, if only because they have enormous resources.
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At the empty churchyard, Tanya Favery talked gossip and shared food with two new neighbors, Alcine Magolie and Solange Goston, who also sought protection here. Alcine said that with no free food, no water, no beds, they got the picture: Go home. Even though, truth-be-told, they'd rather not. And they didn't know what they'd find when they did -- water, mud, nothing at all. They knew they were begging and they felt like beggars. But as Christians -- and Haitians -- their relative good fortune stings. "The Bible said to open up to everyone," Favery said with some anger. "Jesus saved many lives in his ministry. A lot of people used to come to Jesus for help. He helped them."

U.S. missionary back in Idaho after 4 months in Haitian jail

5/18/2010
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Laura Silsby, the American missionary accused of trying to take nearly three dozen children out of Haiti after the January 12 earthquake, returned home to Boise, Idaho, on Tuesday after being held for nearly four months in a Haitian jail. Silsby was greeted by her church pastor, Clint Henry of Central Valley Baptist Church, and other congregants when she arrived at Boise Airport, video from CNN affiliate KTVB showed. The group marked her return by singing a hymn. Silsby was seen singing and swaying to the music, with one hand raised in the air.
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Silsby was freed by a Haitian court on Monday and immediately headed to the Port-au-Prince airport to board a flight for Miami, Florida, that evening, according to her defense attorney, Chiller Roy.
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Roy declined to comment on reports that Silsby had been convicted and freed on time served. Silsby did not take any questions Tuesday from media members at the airport. Henry spoke briefly on Silsby's behalf, saying her family's "deepest gratitude goes out to the countless people around the world who offered their support" during her detainment.
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Henry said the church "continues to keep the suffering people of Haiti in our prayers." Silsby was charged with trying to arrange "irregular travel" for 33 children she planned to take to an orphanage she was building in the Dominican Republic. She was jailed January 29, along with nine other American missionaries, after the group was stopped while trying to take the children out of the country. The nine others were later released.
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Silsby originally said the children were orphaned or abandoned, but the Haitian government and the orphans' charity SOS Children say that all have at least one living parent. Some said they placed their children in Silsby's care because that was the only way they knew to ensure a better quality of life for them. The 10 Americans have said they were trying to help the children get to a safe place after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake flattened cities and towns.

Haitian Judge Says Silby Deceived Missionaries (4/27/2010)

Associated Press
By FRANK BAJAK
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The judge who dropped kidnapping charges against Laura Silsby and nine other U.S. missionaries said Tuesday he did so because the children they were trying to take out of Haiti were all given over freely by their parents. But Silsby, the group's leader, will be tried on a lesser charge of arranging illegal travel because she knew she had no right to take the 33 children out of earthquake-ravaged Haiti, the judge said.
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Judge Bernard Saint-Vil told The Associated Press that Silsby deceived the other Baptist missionaries by telling them she had the proper documents to take the kids to the neighboring Dominican Republic. Silsby remains jailed in Haiti and faces up to 3 years in prison if convicted. The other missionaries, most also from Idaho, were freed in February and March and allowed to leave Haiti.
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Saint-Vil said Silsby's trial, to be heard by a different judge, could begin as early as next week. Silsby acknowledged to him that she broke the law, Saint-Vil said. "She knows she didn't have the legal right to leave the country" because she spent three days after arriving Jan. 25 trying in vain to obtain the necessary documents, he said.
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Officials from the Dominican Republic, where Silsby was setting up an orphanage, told her she needed adoption certificates and passports, none of which she obtained for any of the children. But, the judge added, Silsby told the other missionaries she had all the papers needed to take the children, ages two months to 12 years, into the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.
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Silsby, 40, has refused AP interview requests after telling the news agency the day after her Jan. 29 arrest that all of the children she was trying to take out of the country were either orphans or were given up by distant relatives. Her attorney, Shiller Roi, was asked by the AP on Tuesday about Saint-Vil's assertion that she deceived the fellow Baptists she enlisted in her "rescue mission."
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He did not directly respond, but said: "I know only that the nine missionaries are clean, totally clean." On Monday, the judge ordered both Silsby and Jean Sainvil, an Atlanta-based pastor born in Haiti, to stand trial on the charge of arranging illegal travel. Sainvil did not respond to a voice message left on his cell phone. Silsby told police who detained the missionaries at the border that she got the children from an orphanage run by the pastor that had collapsed in the Jan. 12 quake, the judge said.
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Saint-Vil said he found no evidence that such an orphanage ever existed. He also said he found no evidence to support the Atlanta pastor's claims that he ran several orphanages in rural Haiti. The pastor helped Silsby collect children in Callebas, a village in the hills outside Port-au-Prince as well as in Le Citron, a poor district of the Haitian capital. Parents told the AP subsequently that they had given their children to the Americans because the missionaries promised to educate and care for the kids.
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Saint-Vil was asked whether he believes Silsby intended to put the children - who have all now been returned to their parents - up for adoption. "If she had any intention to commit a criminal act with the children we don't know," he said. "We think that maybe she had good intentions." Child trafficking has long been a serious problem in Haiti. It had an estimated 380,000 orphans prior to the Jan. 12 quake, which the government says killed some 230,000 people and left about 1.3 million homeless.
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The judge said Haiti has not requested that Sainvil be extradited from the United States but added that the decision was not up to him. The crime of which both the pastor and Silsby have been accused, "organization of irregular trips," dates from a 1980 statute restricting travel out of Haiti signed by then-dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier.

American missionary to stand trial in Haiti (CNN - 4/26/2010)

American missionary Laura Silsby will stand trial in Haiti on a charge of arranging irregular travel, a judge ruled Monday, but more serious charges against her and nine fellow missionaries were dropped.
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Judge Bernard Saint-Vil dropped kidnapping and criminal association charges against Silsby and nine other missionaries who were stopped while trying to take 33 Haitian children out of the country after a devastating earthquake rocked Haiti in January.
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If convicted Silsby could face from six months to three years in prison for arranging irregular travel, the Haitian term for illegally smuggling humans. The judge said documents in the case will be delivered to Haiti's attorney general Tuesday morning and the trial could begin as early as this week.
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Silsby's nine fellow missionaries were released from detention and returned to the United States weeks ago, but Silsby has remained behind bars in Haiti. The judge's decision means that the nine other missionaries no longer face any charges in Haiti.
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The judge ruled that Silsby and Jean Saint-Vil, a Haitian-American pastor who is not related to the judge, will stand trial on the charge of arranging irregular travel. Silsby told officials that the pastor helped her locate children in the Delmas neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. He fled the country the day she was arrested and has not cooperated with authorities. Haitian authorities stopped the 10 on January 29 as they tried to take 33 Haitian children across the border into the Dominican Republic. Authorities said the group didn't have proper legal documentation.
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The 10 Americans, many of whom belong to a Baptist church in Idaho, have said they were trying to help the children get to a safe place after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake flattened cities and towns in Haiti. Silsby originally claimed the children were orphaned or abandoned, but the Haitian government and the orphans' charity SOS Children say that all have at least one living parent. Some said they placed their children in Silsby's care because that was the only way they knew to ensure a better quality of life.
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The Americans said they had planned to house the children in a converted hotel in the Dominican Republic and later move them to an orphanage. Eight of the missionaries were released from custody in February and a ninth, Charisa Coulter of Boise, Idaho, was released in March.

Charges dropped against 9 American missionaries in Haiti

4/16/2010
CNN
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Charges have been dropped against nine of the American missionaries held in Haiti earlier this year, according to a spokesman for Idaho Sen. Jim Risch. A tenth missionary, group leader Laura Silsby, remains in a Haitian jail. Authorities in Port-au-Prince accused the group, many of whom belong to a Baptist church in Idaho, of trying to kidnap 33 Haitian children after a devastating January earthquake leveled much of the capital and surrounding areas.
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Risch spokesman Kyle Hines told CNN that the senator received a call from State Department officials Thursday afternoon, confirming that kidnapping charges against nine of the missionaries were dropped. "The senator is pleased to hear that the charges have been dropped and is looking forward to the situation being resolved," Hines said.
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Haitian Judge Bernard Saint-Vil, who has been investigating the accusations against the missionaries, could not be reached for comment Thursday. Attorney General Joseph Manes declined to respond to CNN's questions on the case.
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The 10 Americans have said they were trying to help the children get to a safe place after the magnitude-7.0 earthquake flattened cities and towns in Haiti.
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Haitian authorities stopped the group on January 29 as they tried to cross the border with 33 children without proper legal documentation. The group said it was going to house the children in a converted hotel in the Dominican Republic and later move them to an orphanage. Silsby originally claimed the children were orphaned or abandoned, but CNN determined that more than 20 of them had at least one living parent.
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Some said they placed their children in Silsby's care because that was the only way they knew to ensure a better quality of life. Eight of the missionaries were released from custody in February and a ninth, Charisa Coulter of Boise, Idaho, was released in March. One of the missionaries told CNN affiliate KTKA that the news of charges being dropped against him and the others was bittersweet.
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"It's partial good news," Drew Culberth said. "It's good for me but not good news for (Laura) Silsby

Who Would Jesus Hate? (Huffington Post - 3/8/2010)

By Frank Fredericks
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Lately I have been hearing some rather outrageous assertions made on the behalf of God from supposed "Christian" leaders. Pat Robertson called the Haitian earthquake God's judgment on the nation he claimed "made a pact with the Devil." Most recently, the Christian Right's favored child Glenn Beck instructed Christians to abandon congregations that encourage "social justice" as a part of their teachings. While many Christians have out against them, I think there may be a bigger picture not being seen.
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These men represent only the most recent string of extreme statements by Christian leaders that appear to conflict with the core tenets of Christianity itself. Quite often, however, these statements are widely embraced, especially by followers of the Evangelical orientation. As a person who comes from that tradition, having attended Christian high school and Evangelical services, I often got the idea that Jesus was most angry with the gays, the godless liberals, and the Lady Gagas.
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I know how I felt about such ideas, seeing them as hateful, unproductive, and un-Jesus-like. However, I felt that in order to properly address such concerns, I had to explore them in theological terms. So I asked myself, who would Jesus judge? Who would He hate?
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It's interesting to note who Jesus didn't judge: first, Jesus did not judge the woman caught in bed with a man who was not her husband (John 8:1-11), but rather chose this opportunity to teach us the association of judgment and hypocrisy. He announced, "He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone." Thus, in an opportunity of condemnation, Jesus chose to love. His expression of love occurs while acknowledging her wrongdoing but choosing forgiveness. Jesus makes a pattern of this. Another example of this is when He met the Samaritan woman at the well, who was divorced and living with a man (John 4:7-28). What is so telling about this verse is that Jesus bestowed love to one who was not a Jew but a Samaritan, someone from a religious community considered apostates. (The Samaritans were formerly enslaved by the Persians, taken from Israel at the end of Hoshea's rule in 722 BC [2 Kings 17:1-2].) So who is Jesus judging?
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According to the Gospels, Jesus did not refrain from judging, but he chose two distinct groups of people to target with his judgment: religious leaders who were hypocrites, and those who profited off the sacred. Jesus really had it out for the Pharisees, whom he admonished for judging others, giving false teachings, and acting in pride. He reserved such phrases for them as "hypocrites," and "den of vipers"! Pretty strong language for the Prince of Peace. Jesus also grew furious at the sight of the money changers at the Temple for their attempt to profit off of the religious observance of others.
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So who are the Pharisees today, and who are the moneychangers? I would argue that religious leaders who abuse their pulpits for political propaganda, promote violence, or push a hateful agenda fit the Pharisee profile. Also, those who take the cross as a sign of salvation and cash it in as a merchandising opportunity are our contemporary moneychangers. Our concern should be with forked tongues of false teachers like Robertson, and our conflict with Christian consumerism, trading prophets for profits.
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Similarly, who are the forgiven sinners? Who are the Samaritans? If Jesus forgave those acting outside of marriage, why can't we embrace our brothers and sisters from among the LGBT community? Disagreement of lifestyle does not need to transcend into ostracizing loved ones or lobbying against civil rights. Likewise, the antagonistic language towards Islam, Judaism, Catholicism, or even atheism obstructs us from learning from our fellow Americans as modern day Good Samaritans.
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This notion turns a lot of the beliefs of the Christian community in America on their head. Perhaps if the Second Coming were today, it is Pat Robertson who'd get the cosmic ass-kicking, not Perez Hilton.

Ontario priest gets 18 months for preying on Haitian youths

4/2/21010
Windsor Star
By Don Lajoie
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Former priest John Duarte begged for forgiveness Thursday as he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for sexually abusing adolescent boys at the mission he founded in Haiti. A tearful Duarte told Justice Bruce Thomas that he went to Haiti “for all the right reasons, but in the middle of it all, I got lost.”
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Duarte asked for forgiveness from his family and friends, the people of Haiti and “especially the victims and all those who feel betrayed.” The Windsor missionary, who was arrested in the Dominican Republic and originally charged with nine counts of sexual exploitation in October for sex crimes committed in the impoverished fishing village of Labadie on Haiti’s north coast and the country’s capital of Port-au-Prince, pleaded guilty to three counts in Superior Court.
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Duarte, 44, entered his plea as a result of a deal reached between the Crown and defence lawyer Andrew Bradie. Duarte, who has spent five months in custody, will be given credit on a two-for-one basis for each day spent in pretrial custody. He will be released in eight months or less. As the charges were read out in a sombre courtroom filled with his supporters and board members from Hearts Together For Haiti, the charity he began, the man once touted for an Order of Canada for his humanitarian work replied in a quiet subdued voice “guilty,” to each.
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“You’ve left another dark smudge on your church,” Thomas said. “Your offence victimized the most vulnerable in the worst slums and most remote villages . . . You who had so much to offer and these three young men had nothing.”
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Court was told that Duarte abused the victims at the mission house in Labadie, in a storage room at the school the charity built and in vehicles driven to nearby towns. Prosecutor Walter Costa said the storage room had a bolt that locked from the inside and a police investigation discovered a stained mattress. The priest exchanged money for food, school supplies, tuition and clothing for sex that included anal penetration, fellatio and masturbation.
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Costa said in one case a youth, believed to be 16 or 17, went to the missionary and told him he needed shoes. Duarte told him he could help but first “you need to do something for Father John.” He grabbed the teen’s hand, put it on his penis and said “yeah, I need it.” In another case he took a youth to the storage room and had anal sex. Duarte invited the victim to his house where they watched pornography and had oral and anal sex.
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Crown prosecutor Walter Costa said a fourth charge had to be dropped because authorities have been unable to contact the alleged victim since the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated Haiti. After counselling, Duarte notified the diocese of London, Ont., that he intended to resign from the priesthood and left the country, ending up in the Dominican Republic.
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Last October, OPP investigators travelled to the Dominican Republic and arrested Duarte under Canada’s sex tourism laws. Duarte was returned to Windsor Oct. 26 and has been in custody since.
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In addition to his time in prison, Duarte will be on probation for three years, will submit a sample of DNA to authorities and will be entered on the Canadian sex offender registry for 20 years.

Haiti parents take back kids given to missionaries (3/19/2010)

Associated Press
By MICHELLE FAUL
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Joyful parents on Wednesday recovered the children that they gave to American missionaries about six weeks ago. The 33 children had been living at the SOS Orphanage on Port-au-Prince's outskirts since police stopped a group of 10 U.S. Baptist missionaries from taking them across the Dominican border Jan. 29 following Haiti's devastating earthquake.
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Orphanage officials said all but one of the children were given back to 22 families. A remaining child, whose age and gender were not given, is awaiting further verification of her parents' identities.
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The lengthly verification process, led by Haitian social services authorities, is why the reunifications took so long, orphanage spokeswoman Line Wolf Nielsen said. The Associated Press determined informally that all 33 had at least one living parent in February. The children had been underfed and some were incontinent from stress, the orphanage said. On Wednesday they were dressed in their Sunday best to return home with parents who had given them away to foreigners a month and a half before.
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Many will go back to living under bed sheets or in tin shacks because their parents homes were destroyed by the quake. Some children and orphanage workers cried as they left. The parents, who have had some contact with the children in recent weeks, wore broad smiles. Each family was given about $260 along with food and blankets. The orphanage has also been providing counseling to the children, who they fear will feel rejected, and to parents about the dangers of child trafficking, Nielsen said.
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Regilus Chesnel said he had to negotiate with Haitian, U.N. and orphanage officials before he was allowed to reunite with his children - ages 12, 7, 3, and 1 - and a 10-year-old nephew. "I am thrilled. I feel like God has come back to me," the 39-year-old stone mason said. Chesnel said previously he had given his children to Haitian pastor Jean Sainvil, who was working with the U.S. missionaries, because Sainvil told him that dead bodies buried under rubble in his El Citron neighborhood would breed disease.
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Nine of the 10 Baptist missionaries involved in the case have been released from jail and left Haiti. Group leader Laura Silsby remains in custody at the police station that is being used as Haiti's temporary government headquarters. Judge Bernard Saint-Vil said all could still be called to trial, and last week levied a new charge against Silsby based on allegations she had tried to take a different group of children to the border days earlier. He heard new testimony Wednesday from the police commissioner who arrested the group at the border crossing.
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The orphanage has received more than 400 unaccompanied and orphaned children since the earthquake, of which 65 have been reunited with their families, Nielsen said. The rest are being registered in a national database. Florence Avrilier, 32, recovered an 8-year-old boy she had given away. She said she kept her 12-year-old daughter because the missionaries told her they only wanted children younger than 10. "I'm very happy. I had no hope I would ever get my son back again. This has been a very heartbreaking time for me," she said, putting her arm around the boy.

Haiti frees US missionary; group leader still held (3/8/2010)

Associated Press
By Evens Sanon
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One of two U.S. Baptist missionaries still held on kidnapping charges in Haiti was released Monday, but the group's leader remained in custody. Charisa Coulter was taken from her jail cell to the airport by U.S. Embassy staff more than a month after she and nine other Americans were arrested for trying to take 33 children out of Haiti after the earthquake.
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Coulter did not smile or speak to reporters as she left jail. Just before she left, her lawyer, Louis Ricardo Chachoute, told reporters: "I am here to confirm the freedom of Miss Coulter." Laura Silsby, the leader of the Idaho-based missionaries, was in another part of the city — in a closed hearing before the judge who had previously said he expected to release both of them soon.
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Chachoute said he believed Silsby would be released but did not know when. The Americans, most from Idaho, were detained on Jan. 29 while trying to leave the country without proper documents to remove the children. Their arrest came as Haitian authorities were trying to crack down on unauthorized adoptions to prevent child trafficking in the chaos following the catastrophic Jan. 12 earthquake.
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Silsby initially said the children were orphaned in quake that the government has killed more than 230,000 people. But it was later found that the children had been given away by still-living parents.
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The group planned to take the children to the neighboring Dominican Republic to an orphanage Silsby was creating in a former hotel.
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The judge released eight of the Americans on Feb. 17 after concluding the parents voluntarily gave up their children in the belief that the Americans would give them a better life. But he decided that he still had additional questions for Silsby and Coulter.

Tensions mount in Haiti after voodoo ceremony attack

Please note that Haiti does not have a "supreme voodoo leader." Posting all the same.
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2/25/2010
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
BY M.J. SMITH
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MARIANI, Haiti - Haiti's supreme voodoo leader has vowed to wage "war" after Evangelicals attacked a ceremony organized by his religion honoring those killed in last month's massive earthquake.
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The attack on Tuesday in the capital's sprawling Cite Soleil slum came amid rising religious tensions, as Protestant Evangelicals and other denominations recruit followers in the wake of the earthquake that killed more than 200,000.
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Some of the fresh converts have said they did so because they believed God caused the earthquake.
"It will be war — open war," Max Beauvoir, supreme head of Haitian voodoo, told AFP in an interview at his home and temple outside the capital.
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"It's unfortunate that at this moment where everybody's suffering that they have to go into war. But if that is what they need, I think that is what they'll get." The quake also left more than a million homeless and left much of the capital and surrounding areas in ruins in this Caribbean nation of more than nine million.
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Police said a pastor urged followers to attack the Cite Soleil ceremony, resulting in a crowd of people throwing rocks at the voodoo followers. Rosemond Aristide, a police inspector in Cite Soleil, said he had since spoken with the pastor, who agreed to allow voodoo ceremonies to take place there.
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But he would not explain why no arrests were made nor provide further details. Beauvoir claimed the Protestant Evangelicals attacked the ceremony along with other people they hired, causing a number of injuries. He also accused Evangelical denominations of using post-quake aid supplies such as food and medicine to try to "buy souls."
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"I would like to see each one of them tied up in ropes and thrown in the sea, and I hope the best of them will be able to catch a plane and run away and leave in peace," the voodoo priest said. "Because this is what we need right now — peace." Asked whether he would encourage voodoo followers to respond with the same kind of violence, Beauvoir said he would.
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"They have not been aggressors," he said of voodooists. "I think they are aggressed (attacked), and they will have to answer with the same type of aggression. I don't mean for (Evangelicals) to die. I am not out to kill them." Speaking of Evangelical leaders in Haiti, Beauvoir said most of them studied in places like Alabama and Mississippi, "where they have learned hatred and fear."
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"They say Jesus talks to them, and Jesus told them that voodoo should not be present in Haiti," he said. About half of Haiti's population is believed to practice voodoo in some form, though many are thought to also follow other religious beliefs at the same time.
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The religion — whose practitioners often use the vodou spelling as opposed to the Westernized version — evolved out of beliefs slaves from West Africa brought with them to Haiti. It is now deeply rooted in Haitian culture. A voodoo priest named Boukman has been credited with setting off the country's slave rebellion in the late 18th century, which eventually led to the creation of the world's first black republic.
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But Evangelicals have been making inroads in Haiti lately. One Evangelical priest in the middle-class Port-au-Prince suburb of Petionville claimed Wednesday that more than 200 people came to his church to convert after the January 12 quake.
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"They say that God struck the country," said Sainvoyus Raymond of the First Baptist Church of Petionville, adding that some of those who converted were previously voodooists. Raymond, however, condemned the attack in Cite Soleil, saying violence should not be condoned and anyone was free to worship in whatever way they chose.
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Rejecting claims that voodoo practices in the country were to blame for the killer quake, Raymond said instead that the disaster was God's response to all evil in Haiti, including violence and kidnapping. Beauvoir said the government had brought the earthquake onto itself by denying the country's roots in favor of the beliefs and habits of "settlers," referring to Haiti's colonial past.

Voodooists attacked at ceremony for Haiti victims (2/24/2010)

Associated Press
By Paisley Dodds
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Angry crowds in a seaside slum attacked a group of Voodoo practitioners Tuesday, pelting them with rocks and halting a ceremony meant to honor victims of last month's deadly earthquake. Voodooists gathered in Cite Soleil where thousands of quake survivors live in tents and depend on food aid. Praying and singing, the group was trying to conjure spirits to guide lost souls when a crowd of Evangelicals started shouting. Some threw rocks while others urinated on Voodoo symbols. When police left, the crowd destroyed the altars and Voodoo offerings of food and rum.
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"We were here preparing for prayer when these others came and took over," said Sante Joseph, an Evangelical worshipper in Cite Soleil, near the capital's port, who joined the angry crowd in a concrete outdoor civic center. Tensions have been running high since the Jan. 12 earthquake killed an estimated 200,000 people and left more than 1 million homeless. More than 150 machete-wielding men attacked a World Food Program convoy Monday on the road between Haiti's second-largest city of Cap-Haitien and Port-au-Prince. There were no injuries but Chilean peacekeepers could not prevent the men from stealing the food, UN spokesman Michel Bonnardeaux said.
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Religious tension has also increased: Baptists, Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientologists, Mormons and other missionaries have flocked to Haiti in droves since the earthquake to feed the homeless, treat the injured and jockey for souls. Some Voodoo practitioners have said they've converted to Christianity for fear they will lose out on aid or a belief that the earthquake was a warning from God.
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"Much of this has to do with the aid coming in," said Max Beauvoir, a Voodoo priest and head of a Voodoo association. "Many missionaries oppose Voodoo. I hope this does not start a war of religions because many of our practitioners are being harassed now unlike any other time that I remember." Voodoo, or Vodou as preferred by Haitians, evolved in the 17th century when the French brought slaves to Haiti from West Africa. Slaves forced to practice Catholicism remained loyal to their African spirits in secret by adopting Catholic saints to coincide with African spirits, and today many Haitians consider themselves followers of both religions. Voodoo's followers believe in reincarnation, one God and a pantheon of spirits. Voodoo leaders say that although they do not believe in evil spirits, some followers pray for the spirits to do evil.
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"There's absolutely a heightened spiritual conflict between Christianity and Voodoo since the quake," said Pastor Frank Amedia of the Miami-based Touch Heaven Ministries who has been distributing food in Haiti and proselytizing. "We would give food to the needy in the short term but if they refused to give up Voodoo, I'm not sure we would continue to support them in the long term because we wouldn't want to perpetuate that practice. We equate it with witchcraft, which is contrary to the Gospel."
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A magnitude-4.7 quake, meanwhile, rattled the capital at 1:26 a.m. (0626 GMT) Tuesday, followed by a smaller aftershock whose magnitude was still unknown, said Eric Calais, a geophysicist from Purdue University who is studying seismic activity in Haiti. A magnitude-4.7 aftershock struck Monday, followed by two other small tremors. Both Tuesday's quake and Monday's aftershock struck near the epicenter of the Jan. 12 quake. The U.S. Geological Survey in Colorado usually detects Haitian quakes of magnitude 4 and above, but smaller tremors often are not detected due to a lack of seismometers in Haiti.
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Some walls that had toppled in last month's quake spilled onto the street Tuesday and damaged telephone polls split in half. There were no reports of injuries. "It feels like the Earth is shaking all the time since last month," said Ermithe Josephe, 48, who is still sleeping outside in a tent next to her crumpled house. "We can't sleep with all of these aftershocks and we're too afraid to go to work sometimes."
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Last month's earthquake occurred along the east-west Enriquillo Fault, where two pieces of the Earth's crust slide by each other in opposite directions. The USGS said Tuesday there is between a 5 percent and 15 percent probability that another magnitude-7 quake would occur on the Enriquillo in the next 50 years.

American Missionaries Tell Their Side of the Story

2/19/2010
Associated Press
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American missionaries who faced allegations of child trafficking in Haiti but were freed from jail described their trip to the earthquake-ravaged country as a simple humanitarian effort that left them even more concerned about the Haitian people.
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"It seemed like everyone in the group (was) legitimately really concerned about the children and helping them, to the point that it was almost amazing to me that they were so concerned about helping them," missionary Jim Allen told Oprah Winfrey on Friday's episode of her talk show.
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Allen was among eight American missionaries freed Wednesday after three weeks in custody in Haiti. Two were left behind in jail. Four of the eight are now in Kansas. Three are home in Idaho, while Allen is back in Texas. The group denies the child trafficking accusations, arguing the trip was a do-it-youself "rescue mission" for young victims of the massive Jan. 12 earthquake.
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"We're four guys — well, we're a group of 10 people — that are convinced that it's better to get up off the couch and go and help people than just sit on a couch and do nothing," missionary Paul Thompson said during a segment taped from Topeka and aired Friday on NBC's "Today" show.
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Allen, who appeared with his wife, Lisa, on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," described conditions at the jail, saying the missionaries slept on a concrete floor and received one hot meal a day. Still, he said, the group was treated well. He said when it rained, water would drip through little holes in the ceiling. "What I was thinking of at the time is that there are millions, it seemed like, people on the street that were getting poured on," Allen told Winfrey. "They were sleeping on the ground."
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Thompson said he doesn't want the missionaries' detention to take the focus away from Haiti and its recovery. "The need is incredible," he said. The 10 missionaries were charged with kidnapping for trying to take 33 Haitian children to the Dominican Republic on Jan. 29 without Haitian adoption certificates. Allen told Winfrey the missionaries planned to take the children to a temporary orphanage in the Dominican Republic.
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He said he thought his construction skills could be useful in Haiti and that he was shocked to be jailed. "I felt like as soon as the story was told and the facts come out that we had done nothing wrong that I would be coming home," Allen said. "I just didn't know when it would happen."
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The missionary group's leader originally said the children were orphans or had been abandoned. But The Associated Press determined that at least 20 were handed over willingly by their parents. That helped persuade a Haitian judge to free the eight without bail, releasing them with the understanding that they will return to Haiti if the judge requests it. They could still face charges. The judge said Friday that he is investigating whether the other two missionaries, who visited Haiti in December, went to orphanages to seek children before the earthquake.
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On Thursday, Caleb Stegall, a Kansas attorney representing the four missionaries currently in Topeka, refused to say whether his clients felt they were misled about the nature of their trip.
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He characterized their release as "unconditional" but said he didn't know if they would be allowed to return to the country, which is reeling from the earthquake that killed more than 200,000 and left more than a million homeless. Stegall said the three Idaho missionaries will be home by Monday but declined to discuss their plans further.

Myths Obscure Voodoo, Source of Comfort in Haiti (2/20/2010)

New York Times
By Samuel G. Freedman
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http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/20/world/americas/20religion.html
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Barely 18 hours after an earthquake devastated Haiti on Jan. 12, the Rev. Pat Robertson supplied a televised discourse on the nation’s history, theology and destiny. Haiti has suffered, he explained, because its rebellious slaves “swore a pact with the devil” to overthrow the French two centuries ago. Ever since, he went on, “they have been cursed by one thing or another.”
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Crude and harsh as Mr. Robertson’s words were, he deserved a perverse kind of credit for one thing. He actually did recognize the centrality of voodoo to Haiti. In the voluminous media coverage of the quake and its aftermath, relatively few journalists and commentators have done so, and even fewer have gotten voodoo right.
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Consider a few facts. Voodoo is one of the official religions of Haiti, and its designation in 2003 merely granted official acknowledgment to a longstanding reality. The slave revolt that brought Haiti independence indeed relied on voodoo, the New World version of ancestral African faiths. To this day, by various scholarly estimates, 50 percent to 95 percent of Haitians practice at least elements of voodoo, often in conjunction with Catholicism.
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Yet in searching the LexisNexis database of news coverage and doing a Google search this week, I found that Catholicism figured into three times as many accounts of the quake as did voodoo. A substantial share of the reports that did mention voodoo were recounting Mr. Robertson’s canard or adopting it in articles asking Haitian survivors if they felt their country was cursed.
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At a putatively more informed level, articles, broadcasts and blogs depicted voodoo as the source of Haiti’s poverty and political instability — not because of divine punishment, mind you, but because voodoo supposedly is fatalistic and primitive by nature. “The kind of religion one practices makes a huge difference in how the community lives — for better or for worse,” wrote Rod Dreher on the Web site beliefnet. “I suppose it’s at least arguable that the Haitians would be better off at the Church of Christopher Hitchens rather than as followers of voodoo.”
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For scholars whose expertise runs somewhat deeper, such words have understandably provoked indignation. Worse still, the dismissive attitude about voodoo follows a tawdry history of misrepresentation in American journalism and popular culture. “The media has reported a lot about voodoo but not much of it very insightful or intelligent,” said Diane Winston, a professor of religion and media at the University of Southern California. “Voodoo is one of those flashpoints for Americans because it’s exotic, unknown and has strange connotations. It may be a matter of underlying racism because voodoo is African and Caribbean in its origins, or because voodoo seems so different from Christianity that it’s the perfect Other.” Prof. Leslie G. Desmangles of Trinity College in Hartford, who is the author of several scholarly and reference books about voodoo, views these current caricatures of voodoo as all too familiar.
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“There’s been a very degrading, derogatory language about voodoo,” he said in a recent interview. “It’s language that goes back to the 19th century.” The Roman Catholic Church in Haiti began a series of antisuperstition campaigns in the 1860s. These efforts continued until the early 1940s, and they imparted an assumption — often embraced by Haiti’s elite — that while Catholicism was legitimate religion, voodoo was pagan heresy.
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The occupation of Haiti by American military forces from 1915 until 1934 introduced a cartoonish version of voodoo enduringly into pop culture. The 1929 book “Magic Island,” by a Briton, W. B. Seabrook, became a best seller in the United States. While Mr. Seabrook was arguably enlightened for his time, the commercial success of his book inspired an array of B-movies in the 1930s and 1940s, like “White Zombie.”
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The resulting image of voodoo as sinister sorcery has, amazingly enough, survived into the present multicultural age. A sensitive book about voodoo in modern Haiti, “The Serpent and the Rainbow” by the ethnobotanist Wade Davis, was transformed by Hollywood into a fright movie that recycled every intolerant cliché about the religion.
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In the past year, the animated film “The Frog and the Princess” featured a voodoo magician as its villain. The movie was produced by Disney, which if anything has been relativistic to a fault. But voodoo, apparently, does not even merit the condescending sort of exoticization that Disney afforded American Indian polytheism in “Pocahontas.”
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In American political rhetoric, “voodoo” functions as a synonym for “fraudulent,” going back to George Bush’s description of supply-side economics. Would any public figure dare use “Baptist” or “Hindu” or “Hasidic” in the same way? Superficially, the emphasis on Catholicism in recent reporting from Haiti appears sensible. A majority of Haitians are Catholic; major Catholic buildings were destroyed; the Catholic Church operates important relief and refugee agencies. Voodoo lacks such a visible infrastructure.
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But Catholicism in Haiti, as too few journalists seemed to realize, is not more or less like Catholicism in a Polish parish in Chicago or an Irish one in Boston. It is a Catholicism in symbiosis with voodoo, a Catholicism in which saints are conflated with African deities and dead ancestors serve as interlocutors between God and humanity. Prof. Patrick Bellegarde-Smith of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, an expert in voodoo as well as a voodoo priest, likens the religious texture of Haiti to that of Japan. The same Japanese person, he said, will observe the Shinto faith for certain rituals and Buddhism for others, and will see no contradiction or mutual exclusivity.
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“I’d tell reporters to go into the shanties and find the local voodoo priest,” said Amy Wilentz, the author of an acclaimed book on contemporary Haiti, “The Rainy Season.” “Voodoo is very close to the ground. It’s a neighborhood to neighborhood, courtyard kind of religion. And one where you support each other in time of need.”

Judge Releases Eight Americans Jailed in Haiti

New York Times
2/18/2010
By SIMON ROMERO and IAN URBINA
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http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/18/world/americas/18haiti.html?ref=world
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A Haitian judge on Wednesday ordered the release of 8 of the 10 Americans arrested here on child abduction charges but decided that two members of the group, including its leader, would remain in jail for additional questioning. The judge, Bernard Saint-Vil, told lawyers for the Americans that he freed the members of the group, five of whom were from a Baptist congregation in Idaho, after parents of some of the 33 children with the Americans testified that they had voluntarily handed over their children to them. The Americans said they were planning to house the children in an orphanage across the border in the Dominican Republic.
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The eight Americans emerged from a jail here on Wednesday looking exhausted and were accompanied by American diplomats to the airport. The group flew out on an Air Force plane, Reuters reported, and landed Thursday morning in Miami. The arrests of the Americans touched a raw nerve here, highlighting fears that criminal networks would take advantage of the post-earthquake chaos to engage in child trafficking. Some of the children are not orphans, and it soon emerged that a Dominican adviser to the group was wanted in El Salvador on sex-trafficking charges and in the United States on charges of smuggling illegal immigrants into the country.
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While Judge Saint-Vil’s ruling allows eight of the Americans to leave Haiti on the condition that they return to the country to answer further questions in the case, it requires that Laura Silsby, the Idaho businesswoman who led the group, and her live-in nanny, Charisa Coulter, remain in jail to answer questions about traveling to Haiti before the Jan. 12 earthquake. Some of the freed Americans had already contended this month that they were misled by Ms. Silsby, who had faced more than a dozen legal complaints connected to her online shopping business before she persuaded fellow Baptists from Idaho to assist her in setting up an orphanage for Haitian children.
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“We are disappointed that all in the group are not being released,” said Terry Michaelson, a lawyer for Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, where five of the detainees, including Ms. Silsby and Ms. Coulter, attended church. The church mission’s lawyer had put forward about $7,000 to help pay for the first month’s rent for the orphanage that Ms. Silsby planned to establish in the Dominican Republic.
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“Laura had this dream to help, and when the earthquake occurred she recruited some fellow church folks,” Mr. Michaelson said. “The church had absolutely no reason to believe that her activities were anything other than purely altruistic, and we just hope her and Charisa come home soon.”
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Earlier on Wednesday, Ms. Coulter, who is diabetic, was briefly taken to a field hospital here for treatment but was taken back to jail soon after. Months before the earthquake, Ms. Silsby and Ms. Coulter began working on their idea to create an orphanage on nine acres in the Dominican Republic, relatives of the two women said. The two women visited Haiti and the Dominican Republic last summer to finish their plans, and Ms. Coulter kept a photo album online of her August 2009 trip to an area in the Dominican Republic near the Haiti border.
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Ms. Silsby’s group’s mission plan posted online states that at the time of the earthquake she was “in the process of buying land and building an orphanage in Magante on the Northern Coast of the Dominican Republic.” Public documents indicate that on Jan. 8, an organization called The Dominican New Life Children’s Home was registered in the Dominican Republic to Ms. Silsby and a real estate broker who had helped locate the land.
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While the group acknowledged trying to take the children out of Haiti without the proper documentation, Aviol Fleurant, a lawyer for the Americans, said in an interview that all members of the group were not guilty of child abduction charges. Still, he acknowledged that the emergence of the group’s Dominican adviser, Jorge Puello, had made things more complicated. Mr. Fleurant said that he had been paid only $10,000 of his $40,000 fee, and that Mr. Puello had disappeared with the rest of the money.
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“Puello presented himself as a man of God, and now look what happened,” said Mr. Fleurant, adding that he was told by Ms. Silsby that Mr. Puello had offered his services to the group after they were arrested. “I’m looking for my money, and Laura Silsby is still in jail.”
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- Simon Romero reported from Port-au-Prince, and Ian Urbina from Washington.

There are two missionaries

There are two missionaries being held there whose names are Paul and Silas. It is an interesting read to view
this and ponder it.

Acts 16:25-44 (New International Version)

25About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose. 27The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28But Paul shouted, "Don't harm yourself! We are all here!"

29The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"

31They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household." 32Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family.

35When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: "Release those men." 36The jailer told Paul, "The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace."

37But Paul said to the officers: "They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out."

38The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. 39They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. 40After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia's house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them. Then they left.

So, we should just let them

So, we should just let them rot with no medical care? Sure the State Dept says it is being provided but if that were true, a private citizen named Buddy Shipp would not have had to bribe a jail guard with a tent in order to get in and see them. There is a double standard, because Hillary has called for the release of the Iran hikers, but not for these missionaries. These people are neglected and they have families. The State Dept didn't even send a representative to them. They have no voice, but from the comfort of our homes, it is easy for us to play judge and jury and decide they are guilty, and to sit on our gluts and pontificate like that.

Missionaries in Haiti Skeptical of Newcomers (1.16.2010)

New York Times
By MARC LACEY and IAN URBINA
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http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/16/world/americas/16missionaries.html?ref...
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Their holy books vary widely and so does their disaster apparel. Devotees of Supreme Master Ching Hai, a Vietnamese spiritual leader, wore fluorescent yellow vests on their way into quake-damaged Haiti. Mormons wore their trademark white shirts and ties. And an array of others — Scientologists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Jews and Muslims — each printed T-shirts of a different hue declaring which faith had inspired them to help save Haiti. Moved by awful images of the Jan. 12 earthquake, a broad band of religious groups has swept down here in recent weeks. But rather than fostering a universal spirit of interfaith cooperation, the hasty assemblage of religious organizations has sometimes created tensions among them.
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Theology aside, what seems to divide the missionaries most is how long they have been working here. Some of the missions have operated here for decades, converting generations of Haitians and helping to develop the country, and that has made for some skepticism of the newcomers’ motives and methods. Dale Winslette, 51, a volunteer with Give Me Shelter Ministries in Shalimar, Fla., which has been providing food and medical and dental care in Haiti for the past four years, said there were many missionaries who were mostly interested in returning to their churches with grand stories of good works.
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“These people are so zealous to get out there and say, ‘Look what I did; look at these kids I saved,’ ” he said. In Carrefour, a bustling suburb of Port-au-Prince, the capital, the Church of the Seventh-day Adventists, which has worked in Haiti since 1904, runs a hospital, a wastewater purification plant, a bakery, a radio station and a bookbinder. Even before the earthquake, the church was considered to have far more of a presence in Haiti than the government. But other religious workers are operating in a far more bare-bones manner, with whatever they managed to carry in their luggage. “You had missionary doctors parachuting in here doing amputations rather than setting or treating wounds because they knew their charter jet was leaving in two days and they would not be able to oversee follow-up,” said Dr. Scott Nelson, an American orthopedic surgeon and Adventist missionary, as he lifted a moaning man onto a soiled stretcher.
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“The community trusts us, but when other groups make shortsighted decisions it undermines everyone’s credibility,” he added. Dr. Nelson and other veteran missionaries faulted the new arrivals for frequently acting on their own instead of collaborating with more established missionary groups that plan on staying in Haiti for the long haul. It is tension, some experts say, that can arise from the differing reasons that missions have for being here. “The new or short-term groups see themselves as being there to save souls first and lives second,” said Jonathan J. Bonk, director of the Overseas Ministries Study Center in New Haven. “The older, less conservative missions often see it the other way around.”
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But the new arrivals say they have a legitimate role to play as well. “Right now, with the situation being a disaster, we mostly focus on food and water and supporting the doctors; that’s our mission,” said Pat Harney, a spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology, which has several hundred health professionals and volunteer ministers in Haiti. Some of them arrived on John Travolta’s Boeing 707, which he flew down loaded with tons of relief supplies, and when not doing relief work they sang classic rock songs at a crowded bar full of aid workers inside the United Nations compound. At the General Hospital in Port-au-Prince, where Scientologists in bright yellow T-shirts have assisted as volunteers, some have carried out what they call touch therapy, in which they say they realign patients’ nervous systems by touching them through their clothes.
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The hospital director, Dr. Alix Lassegne, said he told the group’s doctors to stick to traditional medicine and other volunteers to stay away from trying to convert anyone. “We had fractures, serious wounds, and there was no time for unconventional things,” Dr. Lassegne said. “I told them, as director of the hospital, in no way would I permit other activities.” Missionaries have long filled a vacuum left by an impoverished and historically unstable government. While government officials have condemned the 10 Americans, most of them Baptists, who were arrested trying to take 33 Haitian children across the border without proper documentation, they have praised religious groups in general for their work.
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“Missionaries have always participated in the process of alleviating pain in this country,” said Patrick Delatour, a top government official. Christian missionaries run more than 2,000 primary schools in Haiti attended by about 600,000 students, roughly a third of the country’s school-age population, according to the Haitian Education Ministry. In the case of the Adventists in Carrefour, more than 2,000 children attend a cluster of Adventist schools — primary through university level — that sit on a sprawling campus of palm trees and tidy white buildings perched on a hilltop.
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“Even before the earthquake, this was a city of its own,” said Michel Toutian, a resident, 36, as he entered a huge tent city set up by the Adventists. “And the Adventists are the mayor, police, everything.” Todd Johnson, director of the Center for the Study of World Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, said there were about 1,700 missionaries permanently based in Haiti. The number of missionaries making short-term visits is more difficult to estimate, but some organizations say it is as high as 10,000. “The outpouring of compassion is heartwarming,” said Sarah Wilson, spokeswoman for Christian Aid, a British organization that receives much of its financing from church members and has a longstanding operation in Haiti. But she added: “People shouldn’t come down here for an experience. They should stay home and write a check.”

Tension among Haiti's religions grows after quake (2/13/2010)

By PAISLEY DODDS
Associated Press Writer
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Christian and Voodoo leaders put aside their differences for a moment Friday, joining hands under a canopy of tropical trees as some earthquake survivors on crutches and in wheelchairs mourned the more than 200,000 Haitians killed by an earthquake one month ago.
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The catastrophe has driven a wedge between Haiti's religions as Christian groups make inroads among shaken Voodoo followers - some drawn by the steady flow of aid through evangelical missions and others frightened by a disaster they saw as a warning from God.
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"People see rice being distributed in front of churches and those homeless now needing papers are being offered baptism certificates that can act as identity documents," Voodoo priest Max Beauvoir told The Associated Press before speaking at Friday's service. "The horrible thing though is that by rejecting Voodoo these people are rejecting their ancestors and history. Voodoo is the soul of the Haitian people. Without it, the people are lost."
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Beauvoir said it took weeks of negotiations to arrange his participation in Friday's ceremony, and that some didn't want Voodoo represented in Port-au-Prince on Friday's national day of mourning.
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Haitians gathered under the shade of mimosa and powderpuff trees and flooded the streets of the capital in prayer, climbing atop the rubble of destroyed churches and spilling into parks where they stretched their arms to the skies. Hymns reverberated throughout the shattered city.
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President Rene Preval broke down in tears, wiping his eyes with a handkerchief as his wife tried to console him. "The pain is too heavy - words cannot describe it," Preval said in one of the first major public addresses he has made in weeks.
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After the quake, evangelical U.S. broadcaster Pat Robertson said Haiti had been cursed after its slave founders made a "pact with the devil." The White House called the remark "stupid" but some Haitians wonder if God may be angry for their close ties to the spirit world.
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"The earthquake scared me," said Veronique Malot, a 24-year-old who joined an evangelical church two weeks ago when she found herself living in one of the city's many outdoor camps. "Voodoo has been in my family but the government isn't helping us. The only people giving aid are the Christian churches."
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Christians have spearheaded international disaster relief in Haiti and the rest of the developing world for decades. Baptists, Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientologists, Mormons and other missionaries have flocked to Haiti in droves since the earthquake - feeding the homeless, treating the injured and preaching the Gospel in squalid camps where some 1 million people now live.
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In many of the camps, trucks with loudspeakers blast evangelical music while missionaries talk to families under tarpaulin roofs. The Rev. Florian Ganthier, of an evangelical church that was partially destroyed in the quake, said he knows of dozens of Voodoo followers who have converted in the last month.
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"People who practice Voodoo are living in the shadows," Ganthier said. "This earthquake was a sign to all those who do not accept Jesus Christ in their life." Voodoo, or Vodou as preferred by Haitians, evolved in the 17th century when the French brought slaves to Haiti from West Africa. Slaves forced to practice Catholicism remained loyal to their African spirits in secret by adopting Catholic saints to coincide with African spirits, and today many Haitians consider themselves followers of both religions.
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Voodoo's followers believe in reincarnation, one God and a pantheon of spirits. Voodoo leaders say that although they do not believe in evil spirits, some followers pray for the spirits to do evil. In 1791, an escaped slave named Boukman gathered thousands of followers in the forests of northern Haiti, sacrificed a wild boar and pledged that with the spirits' help, he would liberate his people and free Haiti. After 10 years of bloodshed, slavery ended and Haiti became the world's first black republic, making Boukman a hero and giving special prominence to Voodoo.
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Still, Voodoo worshippers have been persecuted. A church-led campaign in the 1940s led to the destruction of temples and sacred objects. Hollywood films sensationalizing Voodoo and legends of the undead pushed the practice further underground.
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Voodoo became recognized as a formal religion in Haiti only in 1987, under a new constitution that recognizes the rights of all religions.
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Many missionaries who have flocked to the country since the earthquake say their goals in Haiti are strictly humanitarian. "We're not here to practice our religion," said Chris Hermensen, a Mormon nurse who came after the quake to help treat patients in several hospitals. "We tell people what are beliefs are but we treat everyone the same. We're here to help right now."
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At Friday's mourning ceremony, Preval urged support for the government despite multiplying protests over government failures to provide food and shelter to those left homeless by the quake. Some aid groups have also complained of government dithering over moving people to safe shelter in advance of the coming rains. In a sign of a return to normality, officials announced that commercial passenger flights would resume at Haiti's international airport on Feb. 19. American Airlines was accepting reservations online but said it would not make a definitive commitment to starting that day. Small commercial planes have been operating between neighboring Dominican Republic and Port-au-Prince's small national airport.
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Meanwhile, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a bipartisan delegation on a half-day visit to Port-au-Prince, meeting Preval and visiting aid distribution sites and medical facilities.

Haitian judge: Detained Americans should be released (2/11/2010)

By FRANK BAJAK
The Associated Press
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The Haitian judge deciding whether 10 U.S. missionaries should face trial on charges of trying to take a busload of children out of the country said Thursday he will recommend that they be released provisionally while the investigation continues. Judge Bernard Saint-Vil must now send his recommendation to the prosecutor, who may agree or object, but the judge has the final authority to decide whether they stay in custody or go free.
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Saint-Vil said he was making his recommendation a day after questioning the Americans and hearing testimony from parents who said they willingly gave their children to the Baptist missionaries, believing they would educate and care for them. "After listening to the families, I see the possibility that they can all be released," Saint-Vil told The Associated Press. "I am recommending that all 10 Americans be released."
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Later, Saint-Vil said he would recommend provisional freedom for the detainees while the investigation continues. But it wasn't clear whether their possible release means they would be allowed to leave Haiti, or what implications the judge's decision could have on whether the charges may be dropped. By midday Thursday, Saint-Vil had yet to deliver his formal recommendation to the prosecutor.
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Gary Lassade, an attorney for one of the Americans, said he expects the judge will recommend the case be dropped _ though the prosecutor could also appeal that ruling. The Americans, most from an Idaho Baptist group, were charged last week with child kidnapping and criminal association after being arrested Jan. 29 while trying to take 33 children, ages 2 to 12, across the border to an orphanage they were trying to set up in the Dominican Republic.
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The following day, group leader Laura Silsby of Meridian, Idaho, told the AP that the children were obtained either from orphanages or from distant relatives. She said only children who were found not to have living parents or relatives who could care for them might be put up for adoption. However, at least 20 of the children are from a single village and have living parents. Some of the parents told the AP they willingly turned over their children to the missionaries on the promise the Americans would educate them and let relatives visit.
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Drew Ham, assistant pastor at Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, said Thursday that the judge's recommendation is encouraging but it's too soon to celebrate with the detainees still in custody.
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"It's a good sign," Ham told the AP. "But we still don't have confirmation of their release." On Wednesday, from behind cell bars in the stuffy, grimy jail where they have been held, the missionaries refused to be interviewed.
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"We've said all we're going to say for now. We don't want to talk now," Silsby said. "Maybe tomorrow." The women were held separately from the men, who shared their cell with nine Haitian men, some of whom played checkers on the cell floor.
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"We will not talk unless our lawyer is present," said Paul Thompson, pastor of the Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho. Lassade represents Thompson's cousin, Jim Allen of Amarillo, Texas. A Dallas attorney for Allen, Hiram Sasser, told the AP that his client was recruited just 48 hours before the group left last month for the Dominican Republic on what Silsby termed an emergency rescue mission.
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"He did not know many of the other people who were on the mission trip, or what other people were going to do, or about paperwork," Sasser said. Silsby had decided last summer to create an orphanage in the Dominican Republic and in November registered the nonprofit New Life Children's Refuge foundation in Idaho.
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After Haiti's catastrophic Jan. 12 earthquake, she accelerated the plan and recruited her fellow missionaries. Silsby told the AP she was only interested in saving suffering children. She told the AP after her arrest, however, that she did not have all the Haitian papers required to take the children out of the country. A Dominican diplomat told the AP he warned her that without those papers she could be arrested.

Haiti judge to free U.S. missionaries (Reuters - 2/10/2010)

By Joseph Guyler Delva
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A Haitian judge has decided to release 10 U.S. missionaries accused of kidnapping 33 children and trying to spirit them out of the earthquake- stricken country, a judicial source said on Wednesday. The source said the missionaries, who have been in jail since they were stopped at Haiti's border with the Dominican Republic on January 29, could be released as early as Thursday.
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"The order will be to release them," the source, who asked not to be named, told Reuters. The decision has not yet been made public. "One thing an investigating judge seeks in a criminal investigation is criminal intentions on the part of the people involved and there is nothing that shows that criminal intention on the part of the Americans," the source said.
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The missionaries, most of whom belong to an Idaho-based Baptist church, were arrested trying to take the children across the border to the Dominican Republic 17 days after a magnitude 7 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people in the impoverished Caribbean nation. The five men and five women have denied any intentional wrongdoing and said they were only trying to help orphans left destitute by the quake, which shattered the Haitian capital and left more than 1 million homeless. But evidence has come to light showing most of the children still had living parents.
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As part of Haiti's legal requirements, investigating Judge Bernard Sainvil must send a notice of his decision to the prosecutor. That will be done on Thursday, the source said. Once he receives the order, the prosecutor could offer an opinion that one or more of the Americans should be held but that would have no legal effect on the judge's decision, the source said. The case has been a distraction to the Haitian government as it tries to cope with the aftermath of the earthquake and was diplomatically sensitive for the United States as it spearheads a massive international effort to feed and shelter Haitian quake survivors.
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Haiti's beleaguered government had warned that unscrupulous traffickers could try to take advantage of the chaos that followed the quake by taking away vulnerable children, and it tightened adoption procedures.
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(Writing by Jim Loney; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Eric Walsh)

When Church Groups Go To Far (Daily Beast - 2/10/2010)

By Sarah Posner
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From the Baptist 10 charged with child kidnapping in Haiti to a Connecticut man accused of sexually abusing Haitian boys, U.S. missionaries are in trouble—and undersupervised—abroad. While the world’s attention is focused on 10 Baptist missionaries from Idaho charged with trafficking Haitian children, a less-noticed case of child sex abuse by a Catholic missionary in Haiti is unfolding in federal court in Connecticut—and calling attention to the larger, international problem of American missionaries operating abroad without oversight.
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Douglas Perlitz, 39, a pastoral minister and celebrated alumnus of Fairfield University, a Jesuit school, is charged with forcing 18 boys into sexual acts in exchange for food, shelter, money, cell phones, electronic devices, shoes, clothes, and other items, while he ran a boarding school for street children in Cap-Haitien from 1998 to 2008. Perlitz has pleaded not guilty to 19 felony counts of travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places.
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Many missionaries “are not answerable to legal authorities, and you’re also not answerable to the people in your church world,” said UPenn religion expert Anthea Butler. The Perlitz case highlights how missionaries operating with a divine imprimatur can hold unique sway over potential victims, and are often inadequately supervised by their sponsors in the United States.
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Elizabeth McAlister, associate professor of religion at Wesleyan University and an expert on Haiti, said that child sex abuse there, including the targeting of boys by Roman Catholic priests, “has a long history from the slavery period to the Roman Catholic educational system through the continued economic and political downward spiral in Haiti.”
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“The weak government,” she added, “doesn’t have capacity to do oversight ... It’s a perfect storm for kids to be vulnerable.” Staff at Fairfield University, including the former director of campus ministry, Rev. Paul Carrier, had ties to Perlitz’s charity and helped raise money for it. When Perlitz was first charged last December, the university issued a statement calling the charges “shocking and very troubling.” In an editorial, Fairfield’s student newspaper, The Mirror, criticized the institution’s refusal to take responsibility for its role, arguing it “should not distance itself from the pain and hurt it may have had a hand in causing.”
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“They are negligent,” Paul Kendrick, a priest abuse survivor advocate and Fairfield alumnus who has written extensively about the case for The Mirror, told The Daily Beast. The Perlitz case and the media scrum around New Life Children’s Refuge, the group founded by the detained Idaho Baptist missionaries, has been a “wake-up call” for other mission organizations to tighten background checks of volunteers and compliance with local requirements, said McAlister. The leader of New Life, Laura Silsby, had a history of legal troubles arising from her for-profit business, the Personal Shopper Web site, and her home had been foreclosed. The group didn’t have the paperwork required to take the children out of the country under Haitian law.
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Yet in the evangelical world, missionaries frequently operate without oversight from sponsoring churches. The exhortation of evangelical organizations such as the Southern Baptist Convention—to go forth to all nations to preach the gospel—can lead to naive or inadequately trained missionaries finding themselves in more complicated situations than they anticipated. While New Life was launched from a Southern Baptist church in Idaho, the denomination, which has pleaded for greater U.S. diplomatic intervention to secure the detainees’ release, has also claimed it was never overseeing the missionaries’ activities.
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Louis Moore, a longtime religion reporter, questions on his blog whether “Southern Baptist leaders [are] truly preparing these hordes for the inevitable conflicts and difficulties” encountered by volunteer missionaries, including violating the bans some countries have on evangelizing. The International Missions Board of the Southern Baptist Convention did not respond to a request from The Daily Beast for comment.
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While the U.S. State Department has launched initiatives to combat child trafficking, it does not issue specific regulations or guidance for the activities of American missionaries abroad. In part, that’s because the First Amendment prohibits the government from regulating the internal activities of churches, apart from prosecutions for civil or criminal wrongdoing. Efforts to more tightly regulate U.S. missionaries abroad would likely trigger an outcry from religious groups raising religious freedom concerns.
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The United Nations children’s organization, UNICEF, works with governments around the world to encourage adherence to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. But the United States is one of only two countries that has not ratified the Convention, due to objections primarily from the religious right.
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Still, some religious groups have stricter standards for international volunteers than others. World Vision, an evangelical organization that performs relief and development, but not missionary work, adheres to the Red Cross code of conduct as well as the Sphere Standards, adopted by humanitarian organizations to ensure the dignity and human rights of aid recipients, said Amy Parodi, a World Vision spokesperson. “I’m sure the missionaries down there have their hearts in the right place, but weren’t aware of all the ramifications of what they were doing, and ended up making serious mistakes,” she said. “The standards are in place so people’s good intentions are carried out in appropriate ways and do good.”
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Many missionaries are not trained according to these standards. The increase in short “immersion” mission trips by evangelicals, and the decline of long-term missionary assignments, leads to the potential for mistakes and abuse, said Anthea Butler, associate professor of religion at the University of Pennsylvania. When long-term assignments were the norm, Butler told The Daily Beast, missionaries were stationed in one place for an extended period and reported back regularly to their sponsoring church. But frequently immersion missionaries “are not answerable to legal authorities, and you’re also not answerable to the people in your church world.”
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People on short-term immersion trips, said Butler, have “a sense of doing the Great Commission.” Evangelicals are motivated to do this missionary work, she added, because they think, “I want to bring the Gospel to the heathens; we want to bring our civilization to everybody; and it’s a calling that’s about me—I get to be this person who is on the field from God.” While the catastrophic earthquake has focused attention on Haiti, the potential for missionary mistakes and abuses exists across the globe. Haiti “is often seen as a singular case,” said McAlister, “but I actually think that’s a mistake. We need to see Haiti as perhaps an exaggeration of forces and dynamics that are at work elsewhere in the world where the political and economic systems are working to disadvantage a country or a region or group.”
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Sarah Posner is associate editor of Religion Dispatches and author of God's Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters. Her work has appeared in The American Prospect, The Nation, Salon, and many other publications.

Why International Adoptions are a Bad Idea

The Statesman
By Elizabeth Chin
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http://www.statesman.com/opinion/chin-why-adopting-haitian-children-is-a...
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The group of Baptist missionaries who tried to take 33 Haitian children across the border into the Dominican Republic are far from the only people trying to "save" Haitian children in the aftermath of the earthquake. Even aid workers (who ought to know better) have been caught trying to wangle kids onto planes headed for, well, anywhere. Frustration abounds that in a crisis like this, a body as woefully ineffective as the Haitian government is insisting that children not leave the country without proper paperwork and proof of adoptability. People are clamoring that all of those kids should get adopted, and fast. But not so fast. In fact, it's a terrible idea.
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Even before the quake, Haiti was full of orphanages, and those orphanages were full of children. Simple, right? Not really. On many of the orphanage Web sites, if you accessed information about a specific child, you would find a note that went something like this: "This child is not in residence at the orphanage but should you be interested in him or her, we can provide more information." What that meant is that this was a child whose family was so desperately poor that they were willing to give that child up. Even before the quake, most "orphans" in Haiti had parents.
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What kind of parent, you might ask, would give up their precious child? To answer that question, you must understand the kind of poverty in which the vast majority of Haitians find themselves. Throughout the nation, whether in rural villages or in the hillside slums known as bidonvilles, keeping your children fed is a daunting task. In a country where food is not noticeably cheaper than it is in the United States, the average Haitian lives on less than $500 per year. Imagine being faced with these two options: Watching your children slowly starve to death, or sending them away in the hopes that they might survive. Sophie's Choice? Haitian parents make it every day.
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The point is, if they actually had a choice, most parents of these "orphans" would choose to keep them at home. In rushing to adopt these children, we participate in a cycle of violence that tears at the heart and soul of Haitian society, and stands to do violence to our own hearts and souls as well. We know from the experiences of children pulled out of Vietnam in Operation Babylift and, more recently, the experiences of many Korean adoptees, that the better life imagined for them in the U.S. is one often full of heartache and ambivalence.
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Too often these children feel racially "other" in communities that give the message that being racially "different" is a problem to be solved; when they are not "grateful" for their new lives, they are shamed or dismissed. As thousands of these earlier adoptees have reached adulthood, significant numbers of them are engaged in activism to halt such adoptions and to provide birth families ways to stay together. We should listen to what their experience tells us.
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Rather than adopting, a much greater gift would be to work toward restoring the Haitian economy so that peasant farmers could feed themselves, their families and their nation. Haiti needs its children. Haitian children, in turn, have a right to their home language, to their home culture, and most of all they have the right to live among the people who love them deeply and fiercely: their own families.
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Adopting a foreign child costs more than $10,000. Think of how many families could stay intact if that money were used not to take families apart, but to keep them together.
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Chin is a professor of anthropology at Occidental College in Los Angeles. She has conducted fieldworkin Haiti since 1993.

Child Smuggling in Haiti Continues (UNICEF - 2/9/2010)

The head of UNICEF warned Tuesday that people may still be trying to smuggle children out of Haiti and said protecting youngsters who survived the earthquake is the top concern of the U.N. children's agency. Ann Veneman said in an interview with The Associated Press that UNICEF is starting a program to identify children who lost or can't find their parents. The group is also working with other groups to put children who are alone into facilities where they can receive food, water and psychological help, she said. "This is a children's emergency," she said.
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Veneman, who visited Haiti last week, said in every humanitarian crisis there's a risk that children will be trafficked out of the country for sexual exploitation, adoption, child labor or other illegal purposes. In Haiti, she said, "this is a big concern."
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Last week, 10 Americans were charged with kidnapping and criminal association for trying to take 33 children into the neighboring Dominican Republic on Jan. 29 without proper documentation. The Baptist missionaries say they were heading to a Dominican orphanage following Haiti's devastating quake, and had only good intentions. Veneman said UNICEF has learned of some other instances "where there is concern that children may not have (had) the necessary documents when they left."
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At the airport in Port-au-Prince and the border with the Dominican Republic, specially trained officials are now checking documents, which Veneman said should make a difference. Veneman declined to comment on the detained Americans, saying the judicial system in Haiti is handling the case: "I think we need to await the outcome of those proceedings," she said.
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Veneman said Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive expressed concern at the massive media attention directed at the detained Americans.
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"As the prime minister said to me in a meeting with him, `I spend so much of my time answering questions about these 10 Americans when I have 2 million people in need here,"' the UNICEF chief said. Even before the Americans were detained, fears that child traffickers would take advantage of the chaos following the quake led Bellerive to announce that all foreign adoptions would need his personal approval.
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Veneman said there is no estimate of the number of children left alone as a result of the Jan. 12 quake. Before it struck, there were between 300,000 and 350,000 children in residential care facilities but many were left by parents too poor to take care of them, she said. Veneman said some care facilities and orphanages collapsed in the quake, killing children, though nobody has any figures.
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Many children lost their parents, and most have now been put "into some kind of safe place," including residential care facilities like an SOS children's village, she said. "The primary concern is protection of children — making sure they have shelter, food, water, the basic necessities and care," Veneman said.
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UNICEF has begun a program to to give children some kind of identity — such as an arm band — to make sure that as the process goes through they can then reunite them with family members. "This is really the goal, to reunite any unaccompanied children with family members," she said. According to population estimates, 38 percent of Haiti's nine million people are under the age of 15 and about 45 percent are 18 and under, Veneman said.

Missionaries Had Made Other Attempts (CNN - 2/9/2010)

The American missionaries in Haiti facing kidnapping charges for trying to take 33 children out of the country last week made an earlier, unsuccessful attempt at taking dozens of other children, a Haitian police officer said. The officer did not want to be identified for fear of reprisals. He told CNN on Monday that he had stopped the 10 Baptist missionaries, including group leader Laura Silsby, on January 26 as they tried to transport 40 children from Haiti to the Dominican Republic.
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The officer said he discovered Silsby and the nine other Americans on a bus in Port-au-Prince's Pétionville neighborhood after receiving a tip from a concerned citizen. He stopped the group and ordered the children to get off the bus. He then directed Silsby to the Dominican Embassy.
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"I said what happened, and she [Silsby] told me, 'I have the paperwork to cross the Haitian-Dominican border with 100 children,' " the officer said. A former attorney for the group, Edwin Coq, said the officer has testified of his account.
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Prosecutors questioned the officer last week in the case against the missionaries. Prosecutors no longer suspect him of any wrongdoing, and he is now a witness, according Coq, who is familiar with the prosecution's case file. The police officer's superiors also confirmed his version of events. Attorneys for the Americans did not immediately answer calls for comment.
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The 10 missionaries were charged Thursday with kidnapping children and criminal association for trying to take 33 children out of Haiti. Earlier Monday, Jorge Puello, a Dominican attorney who said he was hired to represent the group, said they had authorization from the Dominican Republic to bring the children across the border.
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Puello showed reporters a manila folder he said contained documents that prove the Americans had authorization to bring the children into the Dominican Republic, but he did not show the documents to reporters. Dominican authorities have said the Americans did not have permission, and Puello did not say whether the group had the authorization of Haitian officials.
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The Americans have said they were trying to help the children get to a safe place after January 12's magnitude-7.0 earthquake, which has left more than 200,000 dead. Arriving outside the Haitian attorney general's office Monday, Puello said a church hired him that counts some of the jailed Americans among its members. He did not identify the congregation.
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Coq announced over the weekend that he had resigned. Puello said Monday that Coq had been fired but gave no details. Some of the Americans have said they thought they were helping orphans, but their interpreters said this week that they were present when group members spoke with some of the children's parents.
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Some parents in a village outside Port-au-Prince said they had willingly given their children to the Americans, who promised them a better life. The parents also said they had been told they could see their children whenever they wanted. But the Dominican consul general has said he warned the group's leader, Silsby, about trying to cross the border without proper documents.
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Silsby and four other Americans arrived for an appearance before an examining judge Monday. One of them, Paul Thomson, referred reporters to a passage in the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians, in which the apostle Paul tells early Christians, "It seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena."The passage continues, "To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly."

Haiti calls on voodoo priests to help battered nation heal

Boston Globe
2/10/2010
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MARIANI, Haiti - To the outside world, their faith has long been shrouded in mystery, ministering as much to the dead as the living, and associated with images of animal sacrifices and human skulls. But in postquake Haiti, the practitioners of voodoo have taken on a more practical role, enlisted by the government to help count the dead, tend to the injured, and soothe the psychologically damaged.
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“One must understand that Haiti is voodoo,’’ said Max Beauvoir, 75, the “pope’’ of Haitian voodoo and a former biochemical engineer who once worked for Digital Equipment in Maynard, Mass. “Helping Haitians is nothing else but helping ourselves.’’
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To make use of that resource, the United Nations has reached out to the vast and influential network of about 60,000 voodoo priests in Haiti, Beauvoir said. And the priests, firmly entrenched in their displaced communities, are eager to lend a hand.
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“Priests are considered to be leaders,’’ David Wimhurst, a UN spokesman here, said of the voodoo hierarchy. “And community leaders obviously have a role to play to help the humanitarian effort.’’
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Eno Mondesir, a public health researcher in Boston and native of Haiti who serves as chairman of Haitian Americans United, conceded that voodoo priests “do play a role in national life,’’ but he is concerned they could come up with inaccurate data. “I’d like to know what scientific markers they would be using to gather and document that information.’’
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Beauvoir said the priests are counting among their own people, so they expect accurate numbers. He is confident the religious and scientific perspectives will not clash. In a nation where government barely functions, and where more than half the population of 9 million is believed to practice voodoo in some form, the assistance of these priests is considered critical to better assess the situation. The priests in Haiti dispense unofficial justice and cater to religious needs.
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The religion, born in Africa but melded with elements of Christianity by colonial slaves to mask its “pagan’’ veneer, is a nature-based belief that venerates one’s ancestors, calls on their spirits, and promotes a fervent love of family and community.
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“In fact, we are the country,’’ Beauvoir said of Haiti’s voodoo followers. “Many people do not want to see it that way.’’ As a result, the voodoo priests - “houngan’’ if a man, “mambo’’ if a woman - are conducting an informal national census of the dead and injured, Beauvoir said. They also will participate in a national ecumenical memorial service that has been scheduled over six days beginning Friday.
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“Today, we are down on the ground, and our back is broken,’’ Beauvoir said. “We need to stand up as soon as possible.’’ In addition to the census, the priests have been busy practicing their healing arts. In a tent city in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Petionville, the local mambo, Lamercie Charles Pierre, recently stood beside a pregnant woman who had been bleeding heavily. After a treatment of voodoo medicine, Pierre said, the bleeding stopped.
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Another woman, ambling into the conversation, said that she had been traumatized by the earthquake, but that Pierre and a voodoo ritual involving coffee leaves had restored her sanity. “If not for her,’’ the woman said of Pierre, “I would be running crazy in the street. I would be hit by a car.’’
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After the Jan. 12 earthquake, Pierre, who projects a calm, serene authority amid the devastation, gathered her neighbors onto the nearby grounds of the shattered Italian Embassy. There, they pitched makeshift tents from tarps, wood, and sheets. Soon, after reaching out to a French relief agency, Pierre obtained portable toilets for their new home.
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The living are the priority, of course, but the dead hold an essential place in voodoo culture. A few hundred yards down a steep hill, in a voodoo sanctuary that survived while all around it disintegrated, Pierre walked among three “spirit rooms,’’ where human skulls, voodoo dolls, murals of dancing skeletons, and the belongings of the newly dead had been stored. Garlands of flowers hung from chandeliers, paintings of Christian saints adorned the walls, and tall voodoo drums lay stacked for safekeeping in a small, secure room.
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“This is where we call the spirits,’’ Pierre said. “In the voodoo, we only do good.’’ That version of voodoo, far different from the dark imagery with which the religion is sometimes painted, was echoed by Marc Yves Louis, 59, who works as a groundskeeper at Beauvoir’s lush estate about 10 miles west of Port-au-Prince.
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“Voodoo is our culture, our roots, and our strength,’’ Louis said. “Voodoo is our heart.’’
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Beauvoir, a native of Haiti, returned to his roots after a 20-year odyssey that took him to City College of New York, to France for further study, and finally to Massachusetts, where he lived in Stow in 1973 and 1974 while working for Digital. Then, Haiti beckoned. And as the self-styled “pope’’ of Haiti voodoo, Beauvoir adjudicates domestic and other disputes from an ornate concrete chair set under a towering ficus tree. On the back of the seat is a “carrefour,’’ which resembles the Christian crucifix but represents the crossroads to which the plaintiffs and defendants have arrived.
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On the right arm of the chair, inside a sculpted fist, is a stone dagger that represents Beauvoir’s power as a voodoo judge. “I do it on a constant basis,’’ Beauvoir said of these duties.
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Beauvoir stressed that he respects all religions, despite what he sees as others’ disrespect for voodoo. Christian televangelist Pat Robertson, for example, said that Haitians had been cursed by the earthquake because of a “pact with the devil,’’ referring to a 1791 voodoo ceremony that began their revolution against the French.
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“Do we sacrifice animals? Of course we do,’’ Beauvoir said. “There is nothing we do that does not implicate nature.’’ Haitian voodoo holds that a single spirit has 16 lives, equally divided between male and female lives. After each death, the spirit returns to the sea, Beauvoir said, where it is cleansed before “a proper body’’ can be found for the next incarnation.
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Throughout the cycle, he said, the spirits of the dead are a constant, accessible presence. In a striking symbol of that belief, a sculpture in the sanctuary’s amphitheater shows a skeleton locked in an embrace with a woman who represents Haiti.
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“She dances with her tradition,’’ Beauvoir said, “and with all of her ancestors who are dead.’’
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The calamity, Beauvoir believes, is a chance for Haiti’s voodoo culture to reassert itself by taking a prominent role in the recovery. “It is inconceivable,’’ Beauvoir said he hopes, “that people will think about Haiti without thinking about voodoo.’’
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Meghan Irons of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

Kidnapping of Haitian children was no act of charity

By Eugene Robinson
Washington Post
2/9/2010
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Anyone sitting in a dank, fetid Haitian jail for any reason probably deserves at least a measure of sympathy, so in that sense I feel sorry for the Baptist missionaries from Idaho charged with kidnapping 33 "orphans" and trying to take them out of the country. But what the do-gooders allegedly did was not just misguided. It could be criminal, and Haitian authorities are right to hold them accountable.
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Even in the midst of a terrible natural disaster, spiriting away a busload of kids in that manner -- with vague plans to worry about the "paperwork" later -- is no act of charity. The missionaries' misadventure can only make the work of those truly interested in the welfare of neglected or abandoned children more difficult.
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It doesn't help the missionaries' case that their leader, 40-year-old Laura Silsby, has, according to the Idaho Statesman, "a history of failing to pay debts, failing to pay employees and failing to follow Idaho laws." The newspaper reported last week that Silsby has been the target of eight lawsuits and 14 claims for unpaid wages, mostly relating to an Internet business that she founded in 1999, and also that she had received four traffic citations since 1997 for having failed to register or insure the vehicle she was driving.
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The Statesman also reported that "the $358,000 house in a Boise suburb where [Silsby] founded her nonprofit New Life Children's Refuge in November was foreclosed on in December." What's interesting about that isn't the foreclosure but the time frame: Silsby's initiative to establish her own orphanage or "refuge" for Haitian children was just weeks old. The group planned to set up a facility to house, educate and outplace the orphans in the Dominican Republic.
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When the Haiti earthquake struck, Silsby and nine others flew down, assembled a group of 33 boys and girls, and headed for the Dominican border. That was where Haitian police stopped them and discovered they had none of the documents required to take children out of the country.
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According to reports from Haiti, it has been established that many, if not most, of the children were not even orphans. Silsby is believed to have had "permission" from at least some of the children's parents or guardians to take them away. But in no instance, authorities say, did the missionaries have the proper documentation needed for a surrender of parental rights. And reports from Calebasse, the small town near Port-au-Prince where most of the children lived, indicate that some were handed over by adults who were not their parents -- a brother, a godmother, an informal guardian.
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Did the Haitian authorities overreact? Not given the fact that thousands of Haitian children are effectively sold into servitude each year, mostly as domestic workers. Known in Creole as restaveks -- from the French reste avec, or "stays with" -- the children are vulnerable to psychological, physical and sexual abuse. Mostly they are exploited in Haiti, but restaveks have been rescued from the Dominican Republic as well. At the border, Haitian authorities said there was no way to be sure that these people from Idaho had the children's best interests at heart.
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But let's assume they did. Let's assume that neither the missionaries nor the Haitians who signed the children away had any kind of nefarious intent. Even if we assume that all anyone wanted was for the children to have better lives, what allegedly took place was still wrong.
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Silsby's intention, according to news reports, was to find American families to adopt the children. I am a huge advocate of adoption, be it international, cross-racial or cross-cultural; the bottom line should be the best interests of the child. But giving up a son or daughter is one of the most wrenching decisions a parent can face, and it has to be done right, with ample time to think about it. No parent or guardian should ever have to surrender a child under duress.
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I can't imagine more duress than trying to provide for a family in the days after a disaster of the magnitude of the Haiti earthquake. It was a moment of overwhelming need and despair -- precisely the wrong moment to expect a parent or guardian to make a permanent, life-changing decision.
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True charity would have been to help those families care for their children -- not to put them in a bus and drive them away.

Parents Testify They Gave Children to Missionaries (2/10/2010)

The Miami Herald
By KIRSTEN JOHNSON
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Parents of some of the children who 10 U.S. missionaries tried to take out of Haiti after its catastrophic earthquake told a judge Tuesday that they freely handed over their kids, the Americans' lawyer said. The parents' testimony means no law was broken and "we can't talk any more about trafficking of human beings," attorney Aviol Fleurant told reporters.
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He said he was confident the judge will dismiss the case. Nine of the Americans, most from an Idaho church group, have now been interviewed by the judge, who is to decide whether they will stand trial. The judge did not speak with reporters. Flaurent said the Americans would be back in court Wednesday. One of them, Jim Allen of Amarillo, Texas, was represented by a separate lawyer Tuesday.
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The Americans were charged with kidnapping and criminal association last week for trying to take 33 children into the neighboring Dominican Republic on Jan. 29 without proper documentation. The Baptist missionaries say they were heading to a Dominican orphanage following Haiti's devastating quake, and had only good intentions.
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Their leader, Laura Silsby of Meridian, Idaho, told The Associated Press the day after their arrest that the children were obtained from orphanages and distant relatives. However, the parents of some of the children told the AP last week that they turned their youngsters over to the group. The parents said did so willingly after the missionaries promised the kids would be educated and relatives could visit them.
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Silsby was the only American not to appear in court Tuesday. The lawyer who represented the missionaries until last week said that Silsby deceived the rest of the group about having proper paperwork and that everyone but her should go free.
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The Americans' original Haitian lawyer was fired late Friday. The Dominican attorney who had hired him claimed the Haitian attempted to bribe the detainees' way out of jail without their knowledge. The Haitian lawyer denied that.

I Hope Hillary Intervenes

and asks the Haitians to KEEP those damned missionaries. Child stealing is a disgrace as well as a crime. These lousy thumpers think that pushing their particularly distasteful brand of religion is enough of a justification for kidnapping. They are all disgusting people.

American Missionaries Plead for U.S. Government Assistance

New York Times
By IAN URBINA
February 9, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The 10 Americans detained in Port-au-Prince on child trafficking charges are pleading for the United States government to do more on their behalf and for the news media to focus on them less. “Help us,” one of the detainees, Carla Thompson, said Monday as she lay on a bed in a scorching jail cell about 8 feet by 5 feet, her ankles bandaged from infected mosquito bites. “That’s the message I would give to Mr. Obama and the State Department. Start helping us.”
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Sitting on a dirty concrete floor in the cell, another detainee, Corinna Lankford, nodded in agreement, a frustrated look on her face.
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“I have faith in God,” Ms. Lankford said. “But maybe the U.S. government could help a little more, too.”
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“No one is giving us any kind of information about what is going on,” she added.
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The detainees, who are affiliated with a Baptist church in Twin Falls, Idaho, arrived in the chaotic days after the Jan. 12 earthquake. They were detained as they tried to take 33 Haitian children whom the Baptists had said were orphaned into the neighboring Dominican Republic.
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Some of the children later said they had parents, and Haitian prosecutors charged the Americans on Jan. 26 with kidnapping and criminal association, suggesting that they may have been part of a child-trafficking scheme. The Americans have said they were on a humanitarian charity mission to aid Haiti after the quake.
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Asked whether they believed their case had become a distraction to the quake disaster, several of the prisoners became upset. “Yes, without a doubt,” said Ms. Thompson as she suddenly started to cry.
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“We came here to help, and now there is all this attention on us,” Ms. Lankford chimed in as she, too, began to cry. Five of the prisoners were questioned Monday by the investigating judge, Bernard Saint-Vil. The other five are expected to be questioned by him later Tuesday. The judge said in an interview that he planned to hear from the Americans as a group on Wednesday.
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“I want to hear what they thought they were doing,” he said. “I hope to hear from the parents of the younger ones.” On Monday, Prime Minister Max Bellerive told The Associated Press that his country would consider having the Americans transferred and tried in a United States court, since most government buildings in Haiti — including country’s courts — were severely damaged in the earthquake.
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American officials have said they intend to let the Haitian justice system take its course. The case is politically delicate for Haiti because the United States is spearheading much of the humanitarian effort. But Judge Saint-Vil emphasized that the judicial system was an independent body of government and that he intended to investigate the case fully.
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For Laura Silsby, the leader of the group of Americans, and four others, that process began on Monday. Sitting on a brown tattered couch in Mr. Saint-Vil’s office, she waited to discuss her fate. A Bible lay on her lap, and her hands shook.
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“I’m nervous,” said Ms. Silsby, 40, furtively glancing at the judge. In an interview before being questioned by the judge, Ms. Silsby said she, too, was frustrated with the level of American government involvement. “It has mostly been missionaries, not the government, that has been providing us with food and medicine,” she said adding that one of the prisoners, Charisa Coulter, 24, who is diabetic, was lacking insulin for the first week of her detention. On Sunday, a missionary was allowed to deliver medicine to her.
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Ms. Silsby said that no one, including American officials and the group’s original lawyer, had informed them of the status of their case. The only thing they have been told, she said, was that the judge would hear each of their stories and if they were consistent, they would be released.
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“I’m not sure if anyone from the government is doing anything for us,” she said. Outside the courthouse, Aviol Fluerant, who was hired this week to represent the 10 Americans, said the group was indeed given authorization by the parents to take the children out of the country. He declined to elaborate.
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The group’s original lawyer, Edwin F. Coq Jr., was dismissed over the weekend after he reportedly tried to bribe the missionaries’ way out of jail. Mr. Coq denied the accusation, saying instead that he had stepped down in a fee dispute.
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Back at the jail, all five of the prisoners said that they were being treated well by guards and other prisoners. They said they were passing the time reading the Bible, napping, praying and snacking on frosted flakes and Pringles provided to them by missionaries.
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They also said that they took the children in good faith. “We were told by officials at the border that we could go back the next day and get the remaining papers,” said Silas Daniel Thompson, 19, as he stood in his cell surrounded by about eight other Haitian men. Ms. Silsby said she would do that on behalf of the group, he said, “but then they arrested us before we got the chance.”
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Listening attentively from the adjacent cell, Nicole Lankford, 18, began shaking her head. “Our point was to draw attention to the plight of Haitian orphans,” she said. “We came here to help, not to become the story.”

US Baptists' attorney in Haiti: Clients innocent (2/8/2010)

The Miami Herald
By NICOLAS GARCIA FERRARI and PIERRE RICHARD LUXAMA
Associated Press Writers
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- The new lawyer for 10 American Baptists charged with child kidnapping said Monday he believes they had paperwork to take 33 children out of the country after Haiti's devastating earthquake. Attorney Aviol Fleurant's remarks came as investigators questioned the Baptist group's leader, Laura Silsby, who insisted she is innocent of any wrongdoing.
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"I am trusting in God to reveal all truths and that we will be released and exonerated of charges," Silsby, of Meridian, Idaho, told reporters as she left a courthouse in Port-au-Prince. "We are just waiting for the Haitian legal process to be completed." The rest of the group's members will be questioned this week over allegations they tried to take the children to the neighboring Dominican Republic without proper documents. The Americans said they were on a humanitarian mission to rescue orphans after Haiti's catastrophic Jan. 12 quake.
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Their Dominican lawyer, Jorge Puello, said at a news conference that the Haitian court was going to drop all charges against his clients Wednesday. Puello would not say where that information came from. Last week, he claimed nine of the 10 were about to be released. "The judge will rule on Wednesday on whether or not to take the case or free them, and we already have assurances that they will drop the case," Puello told The Associated Press.
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At least 20 of the 33 children had living parents. Some of those parents told The Associated Press they gave the kids to the group because the missionaries promised to educate them at an orphanage in the Dominican Republic and said they would allow parents to visit.
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"Many of the parents who had the opportunity to speak out declared, in good faith, to have given their children to the Americans," Fleurant said.
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"I also believe, really believe- and I don't want to break the gag order from the court - that the Americans have a document, from somebody, an authorization to take the children with them."
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It wasn't immediately clear who could have given the authorization. Puello, retained by relatives of the 10 missionaries after their Feb. 1 arrest, said over the weekend that he fired their first Haitian lawyer - Edwin Coq - after Coq allegedly tried to bribe the missionaries out of jail. He had hired Coq to represent the detainees at Haitian legal proceedings.
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Coq denied the allegation. He said the $60,000 he requested from the Americans' families was his fee.
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Bernard Saint-Vil, the investigating magistrate, is in charge of finding out what happened in late January, in the days leading up to the arrest of Silsby and the others at the Dominican border.
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The Dominican consul in Haiti, Carlos Castillo, has said he warned Silsby that she lacked the required papers and risked being arrested at the border for child trafficking. The case has tapped into fears in Haiti that traffickers would take advantage of the chaos immediately after the quake to abduct children.
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Amid those fears - and before the Baptists were detained - Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive announced that all foreign adoptions would need his personal approval. At the same time, Bellerive has rushed to approve legal foreign adoptions that were already in the pipeline, said Jeanne Bernard Pierre, an adoptions official at the Haitian Ministry of Social Affairs.
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Pierre did not have exact statistics. In terms of the United States, more than 650 orphans have gone to live there since the quake - compared to 330 for all of 2009 and 302 in 2008, U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Elizabeth E. Detmeister said. Until Bellerive speeded up the process, it could take up to two years to complete all the formalities necessary for a foreign adoption, Pierre said.
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Every day, prospective parents crowd outside the U.S. Embassy, waiting to apply for visas for the children they want to adopt. Until last year, France was the country that adopted the most Haitian children, Pierre said. She said French parents adopted nearly half of the 1,000 children taken in by foreigners in 2008. It was the last official figure Pierre could remember; most records are buried in the rubble of government buildings in Port-au-Prince.
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Thousands more Haitian children, orphaned and not, leave the country illicitly each year, according to the U.N. Children's Fund. They are forced into domestic or agricultural labor, used as sex slaves, or sold on the clandestine market for adoption.
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Associated Press Writer Michelle Faul contributed to this report.

U.S missionary in Haiti trusts God to free her

Reuters
By Joseph Guyler Delva
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) -- A Haitian judge made no decision at a hearing on Monday whether to free or prosecute 10 US missionaries accused of kidnapping children, and their leader said she trusted in God they would be cleared and released.
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The missionaries, most of whom belong to an Idaho-based Baptist church, were arrested last month trying to take 33 Haitian children across the border to the Dominican Republic 17 days after a magnitude 7 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
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They were charged last week with child abduction and criminal association. Hearings that could lead either to their release or a decision to move ahead with prosecution were scheduled to resume on Tuesday and a judicial source said a ruling was unlikely before Wednesday.
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"I am trusting God to reveal all truth and that we will be released and exonerated of charges, and we are just waiting for the Haitian process, legal process, to complete," the group's leader, Laura Silsby, said after Monday's hearing.
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The five men and five women have denied any intentional wrongdoing and said they were only trying to help orphans left destitute by the quake, which shattered the Haitian capital and left more than 1 million homeless. But evidence has come to light showing most of the children still had living parents.
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The case is diplomatically sensitive as the United States is spearheading a massive international effort to feed and shelter an estimated 1 million people left homeless by the quake. The beleaguered Haitian government, trying to cope with the country's worst natural disaster, has tightened adoption procedures since the quake and warned that unscrupulous traffickers could try to spirit away vulnerable children.
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Silsby said she was being treated well in jail and expected the legal process to take several more days.
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"God is good. He's sustaining us," she said. "We've been given great care, so we're doing fine."
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After another hearing on Tuesday, Judge Bernard Sainvil will hold "confrontations" on Wednesday where witnesses are brought face-to-face to test the veracity of their testimony, the judicial source told Reuters. The parents of five of the children taken by the missionaries will also be brought in to testify at some point during the hearings, the source said.
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CBS News on Monday broadcast a video showing the missionaries, and the children intercepted with them, being questioned by Haitian police officers following their arrest at the border with Dominican Republic.
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A man in plain clothes, apparently a senior policeman, is shown telling Silsby: "We understand all the good feelings you could have, all the good intentions, but there's a way to do it".
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Many of the children appeared frightened and were crying. Silsby, who looks tense and anxious in the video, is shown telling the police questioner: "Most of these children's parents died in the earthquake just a few days ago."
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Subsequent evidence has emerged showing that most of the 33 children still had parents and came from the mountain village of Calebasse outside Port-au-Prince.
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Some of the parents told police they had given up their children to the missionaries in the hope they would receive an education and a better life at an orphanage the American group said it was establishing in Dominican Republic.
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In the video broadcast by CBS News, a translator puts the following police question to Silsby: "Did you have legal paper?" She replies: "We simply wanted to help the children. We did not understand all your rules." Another police officer is seen angrily slapping the missionaries' US passports on the table.
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Silsby said on Monday the lawyer that represented the missionaries in hearings last week, Edwin Coq, had resigned and was replaced by Aviol Fleurent.

Haiti awash in Christian aid, evangelism (2/8/2010)

In quake crisis, there were sure to be some ungodly
fumbles
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MSNBC
By Kari Huus
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The horrific destruction and human suffering in Haiti exert an almost irresistible pull on U.S. Christian missionaries eager to help. But as the jailing last week of 10 missionaries from a small Baptist church in Idaho illustrates, best intentions don’t always translate into good deeds in the chaotic aftermath of the monster earthquake.
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Many mission groups provide essential services for Haitians — indeed some have evolved into key service providers, working alongside nonprofit groups and the U.N. to fill gaps that the Haitian government can’t fill. But other missions, even when well-meaning, risk running afoul of Haiti’s culture and laws.
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“There’s an issue that is coming up a lot right now,” said Laurent Dubois, a professor of history and romance studies at Duke University and an expert on Haiti. “It’s the difference between wanting to help and being able to do good. Most don’t speak any Creole, or have the cultural knowledge. … (As a result) they are going to be very surprised by what they see in Haiti.”
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Patrick McCormick, a spokesman for UNICEF, said that in the case of the Idaho church members, naiveté apparently blinded them to the legal implications of their actions. They were charged with kidnapping after being accused of trying to take 33 Haitian children across the border to the Dominican Republic without proper documentation.
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“Just because there’s a natural disaster, you don’t start cutting corners on a serious and complicated process like international adoption,” he said.
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Haiti has been a popular destination for missionaries at least since 1804, when Haitians threw off French rule. Catholicism, which had been imposed on them by the colonial power, was left on an uncertain footing, and the country became a spiritual battleground. Various Christian denominations and sects aimed to win converts and prevent Haitians from reverting to Voodoo, a religion adapted from the beliefs of their African ancestors.
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“Every church and mission group has a presence in Haiti,” said Wendy Norvelle, spokeswoman for the International Mission Board, which supports foreign missions for the Southern Baptist Church. “It’s very, very, very saturated with those who would want to go and share God’s love and do hands-on ministries providing humanitarian relief.”
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There’s no comprehensive count of missionaries in Haiti, because they are dispatched by so many different groups, and the number is always changing.
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Before the earthquake, there were about 1,700 long-term, professional missionaries in Haiti, according to Bert Hickman, research associate at the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Mass. He said that number is about average for Latin and South American countries with populations similar to Haiti’s 10 million.
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But that count doesn’t include the thousands of American missionaries who go to Haiti each year on trips that last just a few weeks or a few months, drawn by Haiti’s extreme poverty and its proximity, just a two-hour flight from Miami.
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Some of these missionaries go on their own. Some are sponsored by churches or denominations, or through groups like Campus Crusade for Christ, which sends college students all over the world. Since the quake, there has been another wave of trips thrown together by churches to help needy Haitians and to check on mission properties supported by their churches.
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Their missions vary. Some are there exclusively to evangelize and “plant churches.” Indeed, even small villages in Haiti will sometimes have six or seven churches built by missionaries of different denominations.
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This is the spirit espoused by members of Lifechurch, a nondenominational church profiled by msnbc.com last month when members rushed to Haiti to check on the orphanage they run in Port-au-Prince. The Allentown, Pa., church regularly sends congregation members on missions to the developing world to install water filtration systems and build school cafeterias, playgrounds and clinics.
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“Our main focus is to … show the people we really care about them,” said church business administrator David Jones. “If we have time to talk about Jesus then we do it. (But) our philosophy is that you cannot effectively evangelize if you don’t show you care by dealing with people’s real needs.”
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The desire to help the most vulnerable of Haiti’s earthquake victims — its children — is especially strong. U.S. churches run and support hundreds of orphanages and schools in the country. Even before the quake, an estimated 15 percent of all children in Haiti were said to be orphaned or abandoned. About 200,000 of these children lived in institutions, and the rest were fostered, living with relatives or living on the street. That number has risen sharply since the quake, though it is not clear by how much.
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The huge population of vulnerable kids makes them susceptible to abuse, including the trafficking of Haitian children into the sex trade and slavery.
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Missionaries, aid workers and U.N. peacekeepers have been implicated in such crimes. In a U.S. federal court on Feb. 2, a Colorado missionary who has worked at a school for Haitian street children, faced charges of sexually abusing up to 18 boys in Haiti, luring them with cash and other rewards, and threatening them with expulsion if they did not comply.
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Seeing even greater risk in the chaos after the earthquake, Haiti’s government issued a warning to foreigners who were working with Haitian children not to rush adoptions and not to take them out of the country without complete legal documentation. UNICEF called for measures to prevent children from disappearing and potentially falling prey to traffickers. And the U.S. State Department has warned that children could fall victim to pedophiles.
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In Haiti, many Christian and nondenominational groups work together, but there are rivalries as well. Some, evangelical Protestants in particular, are in a pitched battle with Voodoo in Haiti, which they view as satanic. As evangelist Pat Robertson put it shortly after the earthquake, Haitians’ adherence to Voodoo was a “pact with the devil” that caused the disaster.
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Some Protestants also are vying for the souls of Catholic Haitians. The rivalry is in part a reflection of a historical global competition between the major Christian groups. But it is heightened because many Haitian Catholics also observe Voodoo traditions.
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“Most Voodoo ceremonies begin with Catholic prayers,” says Dubois of Duke University. “At this point Catholic priests don’t spend much energy trying to stop Voodoo.” That doesn’t sit well with groups like Campus Crusade for Christ, which includes this description of Haiti’s spiritual landscape on its Web site: “An estimated 75 percent of Catholics are also increasingly involved in voodoo, spiritism and witchcraft. … The steady growth of Protestant churches in the difficult economic and spiritual climate is cause for praise.”
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Christian missions also sometimes come into conflict with other aid efforts in the country. Bryan Schaaf, a former Peace Corps worker, said he ran into all kinds of missionaries when he was living in Haiti from 2000 to 2002. He recalled one American missionary man living in his village who quietly visited rural areas and helped Haitians build wells.
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“They built this large network of wells that wouldn’t otherwise have been there,” said Schaaf. “It was a missionary family that was well accepted by the community, and using sound development principals.”
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On the other hand, he said, another American missionary family in the village seemed to focus on countering his own efforts in health education. After he talked to young people in the village about birth control and prevention of AIDS, which is epidemic among Haitian youth, Schaaf learned that the missionaries were following up with a message of their own.
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“They would hold prayer circles with these adolescents to purge the evil thoughts of condoms from their minds,” he said. Schaaf, who is back in the States and spends his spare time running a nonprofit consultancy called Haiti Innovation, derided missionaries who lack understanding or respect for Haitian culture and treat the country as their “spiritual sandbox.”
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“I wish I could tell you I was surprised; I’m really not,” he said of the 10 American missionaries being held in Haiti. “Many missionaries come in and think they are in a position of authority.”
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But Schaaf was quick to point out that many of the missionary organizations are not only respectful, but provide essential services. Some relief organizations that have been pivotal since the quake in Haiti were founded on faith, he said, citing groups like Catholic Relief Services and Episcopal Faith and Development. Other groups started out evangelizing and emerged as key providers of services.
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For example, he said, Partners in Health, founded by an Episcopal priest in 1987 as a community clinic, has grown into the largest medical complex in Haiti.
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In this case, the conviction and willingness to work with the community turned this faith-based operation into the best medical facility in Haiti and created a model that has been replicated throughout the developing world, he said. Or, as he put it: “No priest, no PIH.”

Children taken from Haiti face uncertain fate (2/8/2010)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/07/AR201002...
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Washington Post
By Henri Cauvin
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FERMATHE, HAITI -- It was a couple of weeks after the earthquake when word began to spread in a small, poor village here. American missionaries, a local emissary told the people, were offering to take children to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic and give them an education and a better life.
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After the earthquake, which destroyed so many schools, the prospect of an escape for even a few of their children seemed like a blessing. "We were looking to God for something better for our kids," explained Frisner Valmont, 34, a father of three girls.
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The fliers that the missionaries from New Life Children's Refuge brought to the village of Calebasse promised a beautiful place for the children to live, with a soccer field, a swimming pool and a short walk to the ocean. In a place where jobs are few and food is scarce, the hardest part for many families was choosing which of their children to send on the bus that had brought the missionaries to the impoverished precincts of Fermathe, in the mountains south of the capital, Port-au-Prince.
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So went some 20 children from Calebasse, driven by their families' desperation, on a bus ride that would be the beginning of a bizarre journey that has landed the 10 missionaries in Haitian jails and has left the children in the stricken country their families wanted them to escape.
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Arrested as they tried to leave Haiti with a total of 33 children, the 10 Baptist missionaries from Idaho and elsewhere were charged last week with child kidnapping and child smuggling. They are due back in court this week. Investigators have said that the group did not have the proper documents to take the children out of Haiti, and the case has heightened concerns over the trafficking of Haitian children.
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Though the authorities have not accused the missionaries of transporting the children for work or sex, the case is full of unanswered questions about the group's plans. The orphanage where the children were supposed to be taken was still on the drawing board, and it is unclear how or where the missionary group planned to house the children.
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And no one appears to know if the 33 children eventually would be put up for adoption. In Haiti, not every child who ends up in an orphanage is, strictly speaking, an orphan. Rather, some come from families too poor to care for their young ones. Calebasse is a place where that predicament was all too real for many families. Aside from farming the rocky, rain-starved soil, there is little work to be had. Food is hard to come by. And the earthquake has made it all worse, villagers say.
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So it was when one of their neighbors, an English speaker who would serve as the missionaries' interpreter, gathered 40 or so Calebasse families for a meeting on the patch of parched grass where the boys play soccer. A group of missionaries would be coming in a few days, he told the families. And the group wanted to help some of the children by taking them to live and study in the neighboring Dominican Republic.
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"We want to help Haitian children who have lost their mother and father in the earthquake or have no one to love and care for them," read the flier that the parents received. "We love God and he has given us tremendous love for the children of Haiti. New Life Children's Refuge is a nonprofit Christian ministry dedicated to loving and caring for orphaned and abandoned Haitian children in our orphanage and school in Cabarete/Magante, DR [Dominican Republic]. . . .
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"We have authorization from the government to bring orphaned children, babies up to 10 years, to our orphanage in the DR. Haitian friends and relatives can come to the DR and visit the children and get updates through our website." It didn't matter that the flier was in English or that few families here could afford the visas to travel to the Dominican Republic, or Internet access to check New Life's Web site.
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For Frisner Valmont and others here, it was a simple decision. "All the families are victims, all the houses were destroyed, so we have no choice," said Valmont, who chose to send his 8-year-old daughter Alentina with the missionaries. No one thought about the possibility of adoption, Valmont and others said. The word did not come up, they said. And even if it had, their children would always be their children, they explained.
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"She's old enough to know us," Milien Brutus, 28, said of his little sister Nacofa, 8, who left with the missionaries. Walking to retrieve a photo of her from a neighbor's home, Brutus points to the pink and beige rubble that was his family's house before the earthquake. "We were very happy that they wouldn't have to live in the mess we are now," Brutus said. What's next?
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But now they face a different sort of uncertainty. Since the arrest of the Americans, the 33 children have been living just outside Port-au-Prince in an orphanage run by the Austrian charity SOS Children's Villages. At first, the children were reluctant to come out to play at SOS, but over the last few days, they have emerged to enjoy the charity's tranquil, shaded campus, which is a startling contrast to the bustle of the capital.
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Some of them have been visited by their families, but whether they will be reunited with their relatives is up to the country's child welfare authorities. "The children, if you ask them, most of them say, 'I want to go back with my parents,' " said George Willeit, who works for the charity that runs SOS Village and has talked to some of the children. Many are scared and confused, Willeit said, and some, like a girl who is 8 or 9, are having understandable reactions to the jarring turn of events. "She said she wants 'to go back to my father because my mother gave me away.' "
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Back home in Calebasse, though, there was little talk of the children coming home, only dismay that their journey to a better life had been disrupted.
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"When I heard the missionaries got arrested on the border, I was sad both for the kids and the missionaries, because they were just helping us," Brutus said. Even as the missionaries face the prospect of long prison sentences, Valmont seems to think everything will turn out all right -- for the Americans, and for his daughter.
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"I'm waiting for the justice system to clear everything up and then she can leave for Santo Domingo," he said.

We Gave the Children Away (2/8/2010)

Caribbean Net News
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CALLEBASSE, Haiti (AFP) -- "I would like to give up my son again," says Anchello Cantave, a farmer here, who willingly handed over his five-year-old to US missionaries now facing charges of child abduction in Haiti's post-quake chaos. An hour outside of the devastated Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, Callebasse is a poor town set in the mountains, where a massive 7.0-magnitude earthquake on January 12 destroyed 50 homes.
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Saurentha Muran, one of the parents who give his kids to American missionary waits in Calebasse, east of Port au Prince. Just two days later, 10 American missionaries from the US state of Idaho arrived in town. To impoverished parents desperate to give their children a better future, they offered the promise of something more -- but they also represented the children as orphans when they tried to take them across the border to the Dominican Republic.
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Cantave, 36, is convinced that the Americans had only good intentions. "It's better for our children to stay with strangers in a foreign country," he told AFP. But Haitian authorities have been less forgiving.
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After the group was detained trying to cross in the Dominican Republic with 33 children on January 29, they now faces charges of child abduction and criminal association. "The Americans took the children with permission from us, the parents," said Fritzian Valmont, the father of three daughters aged 11, eight and two.
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"If they had had a big bus that could have taken more children, even more would have gone," he added, with all the pride of a parent trying to secure the best future for his daughter. A few feet away from Cantave and Valmont sat Jean Ricia Geffrand, a widowed mother of five and a grandmother at just 47.
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"The Thursday after the quake a man named Issac who is from near here came and asked if we wanted our children to go with them to a school in the Dominican Republican, where they would be better off than here," she said. The man is believed to have come from a neighboring town and was working as a translator for the American missionaries.
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Next to Geffrand sat Saurentha Muran, 25, who cradled her two-year-old daughter Magdalenne in her arms. She consulted her husband in trying to decide whether their daughter Ansitho should go with the missionaries. "We discussed it and I asked (my children)... if they wanted to go to school in the Dominican Republic and they said they wanted to go," said Muran, who like everyone here adds that they received no money for handing over their children.
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"We gave them away, and the only reason we want to take them back now is that we have many problems with the media," said Valmont, to nods of agreement from others close by. "If, after the trial, the Americans can come and take the children again, we would agree to it," added Cantave, who is thinking about visiting his son this week at the SOS Children's Villages, a charitable organization taking care of the 33 children, to clear up the situation.
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The children range in age from between two months to 12 years old. SOS Children's Villages has confirmed their names. Muran said she would take Ansitho back if she wants to come, but she fears it wont be for the best. She can barely take care of her two-year-old Magdalenne and is eight months pregnant.
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Most of Callebasse's residents are Baptists, but they say they had no idea what religion the Americans were, they simply hoped they would offer their children a better life. The 10 Americans belongs to the New Life Children's Refuge, a Christian religious organization whose Haiti mission statement says they planned to "rescue Haitian orphans abandoned on the streets, makeshift hospitals or from collapsed orphanages."

A Heartbreaking Request: Take My Child (Miami Herald -2/6/2010)

By FRED GRIMM
fgrimm@MiamiHerald.com
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Death estimates flog the imagination. The streetscape remains a tapestry of rubble and disorder. Bodies, in a tangle of grotesque poses, are dumped in burial pits. Food lines stretch into the horizon. Most of the city still sleeps under tattered tarps and bed sheets suspended from sticks and strings. The smell of rotting flesh mingles with human waste.
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Nearly four weeks after the earthquake, Port-au-Prince remains a place defined by ruin, smoke, dust, stink, chaos, hunger, tears. But the most telling measure of the escalating despair afflicting Haiti comes in three stark words: Take my child.
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Herald reporter Kathleen McGrory walks into a sprawling, filthy, stinking survivor camp this past week, not far from the Port-au-Prince airport. In a place where hope has been reduced to a desiccated memory, the sight of a American woman provokes unfathomable requests.
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``Take my child away. Take my child to America.'' Not the words of one or two parents. Kat's besieged by a tragic chorus. At first, about 10. ``Then I was swamped. Suddenly, there were 40 or 50 people.''
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They said: ``You'd like my baby.''
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``My girl would make a great daughter. She is very obedient.''
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Across town. Same day. Another camp. Another place choking on its own filth, where the smell crawls across your flesh and into your hair like a rodent. Kat enters in pursuit of a story about parents begging orphanages to take their children. Instead, she encounters more parents begging her to take their child away from Haiti. ``My little boy doesn't get in trouble,'' a father tells Kat. ``He works hard.''
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It's a scenario that pummels the notion that a journalist acts as a dispassionate observer from an emotional distance. A chunky little toddler reaches up to Kat, begging to be held. He clings to her neck. And clings. ``He was adorable,'' she says, pausing, as if on the edge of a precipice. ``It was heartbreaking to leave that child behind.''
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This while the parents beg her to take the child. ``Looking into their eyes . . . to see parents that desperate . . . it was crushing,'' she tells me.
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Take my child: The specter Kat and other journalists are encountering in those squalid survivor camps cast Haiti's orphan dilemma as a kind of moral dichotomy.
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Even before the Jan. 12 disaster, the very definition of an orphan had been reshaped by Haiti's pervasive poverty. It was hardly uncommon for parents to beg orphanages to take in their children. Estimates of the number of kids sheltered in orphanages ranged from 50,000 (from UNICEF) to 380,000 (Save the Children) before the earthquake. And adoption agencies report that no small percentage of those ``orphans'' were actually children of living parents who had simply run out of hope.
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Herald reporters, long before the earthquake, had discovered that the Haitian government, such as it was, has done little in the way of regulating orphanages or international adoptions. Along with legitimate adoptions, there were horror stories of child trafficking gone amuck. Of children sold like chattel by unscrupulous actors. Of orphans subjected to sexual abuse. Then, amid this madness, comes the greatest disaster in the history of the Western Hemisphere. And with it, the number of children cut adrift in Haiti's tumult is simply beyond estimation.
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Against this anarchic backdrop, 10 self-anointed missionaries from Idaho are arrested by the Haitian government at the border, attempting to spirit 33 children without passports or documentation into the Dominican Republic.
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The New Life Children's Refuge, a slipshod, unregistered adoption outfit that promises donors it will unite Haitian children with Christian parents in America, seems to have flouted both Haitian law and international adoption standards. Several of the 33 kids still have living parents in Haiti. Reporters discovered that none of those parents seem to have signed the necessary documents surrendering their parental rights.
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The missionaries, perhaps out of religious fervor, perhaps out of sheer naiveté, appear to have been practitioners of an ugly, cultural elitism, scooping up Haitian children like cheap souvenirs collected on their Caribbean vacation. Any place else, any other time, their moral transgression would be beyond question. Except this is Haiti, where the government paid scant attention to the plight of its orphan population before the earthquake. This is Haiti, now bereft of hope and choking on an ever deepening despair, where parents are willing to endure unimaginable heartbreak if only some stranger would deliver their children to America.
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Three sorrowful, oft-repeated words mitigate the outrageous, arrogant, mindless acts of the New Life Children's Refuge. I doubt Kat McGrory will ever forget them: Take my child.

No early release for US missionaries in Haiti

Associated Press
By FRANK BAJAK
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PORT-AU-PRINCE (AP), Feb 5 -- Ten U.S. Baptist missionaries charged with child kidnapping returned to jail Friday after failing to persuade a judge to grant them provisional release pending the outcome of their case, their lawyer said. The weary looking Americans were led one by one into the back of a police van after spending half the day at a courthouse in the rubble-strewn capital. A judge scheduled three more days of hearings next week, starting Monday, defense attorney Edwin Coq told reporters.
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Haitian officials at the court declined to answer questions from journalists about the case. The missionaries did not respond to questions and Coq said they had been ordered by the judge not to discuss their case. The lawyer said that at least nine of the Americans - all but the group's leader, Laura Silsby - clearly did not know they lacked the proper papers to remove 33 children from Haiti following the devastating earthquake and they should be immediately released.
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"They came to Haiti to help. They came in solidarity," he said. "It is scandalous that they are being detained." Prior to the closed hearing, Coq told reporters he would ask the judge to grant the detainees "provisional release," a type of bail without money posted. He said they should be allowed to leave Haiti until their trial, a date for which has not been established.
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An investigating judge charged the Americans on Thursday with kidnapping for trying to take the 33 children across the border into the Dominican Republic on Jan. 29 without documentation. Coq says Silsby knew she couldn't take the youngsters without proper paperwork. But he characterized the other nine missionaries as innocents caught up in actions they didn't understand. The Baptist group, most of whose members are from two Idaho churches, insisted they were rescuing abandoned children and orphans after the Jan. 12 quake.
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But at least 22 of the children, ranging in age from 2 to 12, have parents. Some of the parents told The Associated Press they gave them up willingly because the missionaries promised the children a better life.
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Each of the missionaries is charged with one count of kidnapping, which carries a sentence of five to 15 years in prison, and one of criminal association, punishable by three to nine years. Coq said the case was assigned a judge and a verdict could take three months. "Obviously this is a matter for the Haitian judicial system," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday.
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Clinton's husband, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, now a special U.N. envoy to Haiti, met with President Rene Preval in Port-au-Prince on Friday, but said his visit had nothing to do with the detained Americans. Later, Clinton said the U.S. and Haitian governments should try to resolve the issue quickly.
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"I think what's important now is that the government of Haiti and the government of the United States to get together and go through this because the government of Haiti, as I understand it, is not looking for a fight. They just want to protect children," he said during a visit to an AIDS clinic.
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"The only thing I ask is both sides try to work through it as soon as possible." Clint Henry, the pastor at Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, which Silsby and several other detainees attend, also called for Haiti to quickly free the group. "We believe that the very best thing that could happen - not only for our loved ones who we miss dearly, but also for the people of Haiti - is for their government to release them as quickly as possible, allowing the world's attention to be focused where it should be, on helping a nation that experienced a devastating earthquake," Henry told reporters in Idaho, without taking questions.
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Three national leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention sent a letter Friday to President Barack Obama urging him to "do everything within the authority of your office to secure a safe return home" for the detainees. The leaders added that they could not "speak authoritatively about the motives and actions" of those detained, saying they went to Haiti on their own and weren't part of the Southern Baptist Convention's international relief efforts.
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Silsby, who wanted to create an orphanage for Haitian children in the neighboring Dominican Republic, and the other nine went to Haiti after the earthquake to gather children for their project. Most of the children were from the village of Callebas, where people said they handed the kids over because they couldn't feed or clothe them. Their stories contradicted Silsby's account that the children came from collapsed orphanages or were handed over by distant relatives.
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Silsby also said she believed she had all the necessary documents to take the children. The Dominican consul in Haiti, however, said he warned Silsby her mission would be considered child trafficking if she lacked adoption papers signed by Haitian officials.
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Associated Press writers contributing to this report include Matthew Lee in Washington; Abel Guzman in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Ben Fox, Paisley Dodds and Jessica Desvarieux in Port-au-Prince and Rachel Zoll in New York.

Haiti and the Voodoo Curse (WSJ - 2/5/2010)

Note: I categorically reject the notion that voodoo is responsible for Haiti's poverty anymore than Candomble is responsible for Brazil's poverty or Shinto is responsible for Japan's social problems.
Cultural characteristics he mention (e.g, paranoia) have more to do with a history of repression, often abetted by the United States government, than religion. Still, I want to share this article to reflect different viewpoints.
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Haiti and the Voodoo Curse:The cultural roots of the country's endless misery
By LAWRENCE HARRISON
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Haiti has received billions of dollars in foreign aid over the last 50 years, and yet it remains the least developed country in the Western Hemisphere. Its indicators of progress are closer to Africa's than to those of Latin America. It has defied all development prescriptions. Why? Because Haiti's culture is powerfully influenced by its religion, voodoo. Voodoo is one of numerous spirit-based religions common to
Africa. It is without ethical content. Its followers believe that their destinies are controlled by hundreds of capricious spirits who must be propitiated through voodoo ceremonies. It is a species of the sorcery religions that Cameroonian development expert Daniel Etounga-Manguelle identifies as one of the principal obstacles to progress in Africa.
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Voodoo is practiced mostly by poor Haitians, who make up the vast majority of the country's population. But all Haitians feel its influence, as one of my sons-in-law, who is Haitian and holds a graduate degree from Harvard, assures me. Wallace Hodges, an American missionary who lived in Haiti for 20 years, observed: "A Haitian child is made to understand that everything that happens is due to the spirits. He is raised to externalize evil and to understand he is in continuous danger. Haitians are afraid of each other. You will find a high degree of paranoia in Haiti."
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But voodoo is not the only progress-resistant force at work in Haiti. The treatment of the slaves in French St. Domingue—the colony that would become independent Haiti in 1804— was particularly brutal. The Haitian slaves won their freedom through an uprising that left them in charge of their destiny, but they were left with a value system largely shaped by African culture and by the experience of slavery. The Nobel Prize-winning economist Sir Arthur Lewis, himself a descendent of African slaves, wrote that those who had experienced it "have inherited the idea that work is only fit for slaves."
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What other factors contribute to Haiti's endless nightmare? Bad leadership is one obvious candidate. With the exception of Alexandre Pétion (1806-1818), Haiti has never had a president fully committed to modernizing the country. (Once again, we are reminded of the parallels between Haiti and Africa.)
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Some stress policies and institutions when they try to explain the country's tortured history. But bad policies inevitably reflect the agendas of poor leaders—and thus the culture that nurtured them. Those of us who have worked at institution-building in countries like Haiti are well aware of the frustrations that attend such efforts, confirming the truth of Mr. Etounga-Manguelle's observation: "Culture is the mother. Institutions are the children."
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Others cite the heavy indemnity that the French extracted from Haiti in 1825 for re-establishment of relations (originally 150 million francs over five years, later reduced to 60 million francs over 30 years) as a major cause of Haiti's poverty. It is also true that for several decades after its independence, Haiti was ostracized by other Western Hemisphere nations, the United States among them, out of fear that Haiti's successful slave rebellion would spread to their own slaves. U.S. policy was changed by Abraham Lincoln; official recognition was extended in 1862.
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Still others argue that Haiti's problems are largely the result of a mulatto upper class that identifies itself with the former French masters and treats black Haitians as inferior beings. But for a good part of Haiti's history, black chiefs of state, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier among them, ran the country.
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While these and other factors may be relevant, none of them, even collectively, adequately explains the unending dysfunction of Haitian society. Haiti's predicament is caused by a set of values, beliefs and attitudes, rooted in African culture and the slavery experience that resist progress.
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The Dominican Republic, which Haiti ruled between 1822 and 1843, has evolved as a more or less typical Latin American country with political instability and slow development. But even that slow development has clearly outpaced Haiti. The Dominican Republic is No. 79 on the U.N. Development Program's Human Development Index, while Haiti is No. 146 (out of 177 countries).
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Haiti has received far more development assistance than Benin, the country in the Dahomey region of West Africa whence came the slaves the French imported into St. Domingue. And yet today Haiti's and Benin's level of development are strikingly similar. The British imported slaves into Barbados from the same Dahomey region, but Barbados remained a British colony until 1966, by which time the descendents of the slaves had become black Englishmen. Today, Barbados is a stable democracy on the verge of First World status.
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Culture matters. Race doesn't.
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Mr. Harrison, who ran the USAID mission to Haiti from 1977 to 1979, now directs the Cultural Change Institute at the Fletcher School of International Affairs at Tufts University. He is the author of "TheCentral Liberal Truth: How Politics Can Change a Culture and Save it from Itself" (Oxford University Press, 2006).

Missionary Stumbles on Road to Haiti (WSJ - 2/4/2010)

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870335710457504579404872556...
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By JOEL MILLMAN, JEFFREY BALL and MARK SCHOOFS
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti—In a closed courtroom in one of the few government buildings still standing here, Laura Silsby and nine other American missionaries were charged Thursday with abducting children from this earthquake-ravaged capital. When the proceeding was done, the 40-year-old from a mountain valley in Idaho walked out of Le Tribunal de Paix, past a scrum of microphones, cameras and seething Haitians and into a government minivan with a co-defendant. As they waited to return to a fetid cell with mattresses on a concrete floor, they appeared to pray.
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Their lawyer, Edwin F. Coq Jr., said they had been charged with child abduction and criminal association and not the more-serious charges of kidnapping and child trafficking in connection with trying to take 33 children into the neighboring Dominican Republic. The charges could carry sentences of up to nine years and up to three years, respectively, Mr. Coq said.
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"No trafficking? What is wrong with this country?" one man in the crowd yelled in English afterward. For Ms. Silsby it was the latest in a series of wrong turns on a road her parents and others who know her in Idaho say was paved with the best intentions. Yet in her long-stated desire to help orphans, she has left a trail of business and personal debts, as well as unheeded warnings about the intricacies of taking children out of Haiti.
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"Laura was the only one who had knowledge of what was going on," Mr. Coq said. "The rest said only that they love Haiti. That is why they came to Haiti."
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Ms. Silsby and the nine other Americans with a nonprofit group she founded were arrested last Friday at the Dominican border with children ranging in age from 2 months to 13 years old. U.S. officials said they would respect the Haitian judicial process. "We continue to provide appropriate consular assistance and to monitor the developments in the legal case," said Tanya Powell, spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department.
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Haitian authorities have said she claimed the children had been orphaned by the quake that killed an estimated 200,000 and left countless families homeless and dependent on international handouts of food, water and medicine.
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Interviewed Thursday night, her mother said Ms. Silsby knew many of the children weren't orphans but that the parents had signed them over to her to give them a better life. "She has no desire to exploit, no desire to take advantage," Adonna Sander, at her home in Buhl, Idaho, said of her daughter."We knew they had parents, she knew they had parents. They're saying, 'Take this child.' "
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Much about Ms. Silsby, who started and ran an online personal-shopping service, remains a mystery, including the current state of her business and personal finances—her house was foreclosed and she was sued by creditors—and whether she believed she was following Haitian law as she gathered children.
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Ms. Silsby's interest in the plight of Haitian children started with her father, who did missionary dental work in Haiti, her parents said. Standing in his living room, which is decorated with portraits of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln praying, John Sander said his daughter's motives shouldn't be misconstrued because her group's efforts went awry. "In their intent to do something good they may have
been a touch naive about what was required. You can be blinded by your ambition." He added: "We're hoping and praying the judge will see the intent of her heart was not to do anything wrong."
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Ms. Silsby and her 24-year-old live-in nanny, Charisa Coulter, organized a nonprofit group, New Life Children's Refuge, which they incorporated last November, and planned a companion organization in the Dominican Republic. According to a document from Ms. Silsby and Ms. Coulter describing New Life, it is "dedicated to rescuing, loving and caring for orphaned, abandoned and impoverished Haitian and Dominican children, demonstrating God's love and helping each child find healing, hope, joy and new life in Christ."
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They shared their interest in Haitian children at the Central Valley Baptist Church, a congregation they attended in Meridian, Idaho, a Boise suburb. The church, which has an international mission program, embraced the pair's efforts and joined the planning, said Drew Ham, one of its pastors. New Life Children's Refuge began the process of buying land in Magante, on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, to build an orphanage for as many as 200 children—with a school, a chapel and seaside villas for adopting parents, according to the document.
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Ms. Silsby and Ms. Coulter traveled to the Dominican Republic and Haiti last July and late last year. They were "laying the groundwork" then for opening an orphanage, said Mel Coulter, Ms. Coulter's father. They coordinated with people there who they thought were handling necessary details and "running interference for them," he said, so they thought "they had everything they needed" in documentation, Mr. Coulter said.
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Ms. Silsby had equally grand ambitions closer to home, according to a local builder. The Idaho plan called for a "multi-million-dollar complex" for runaway children on a 40-acre lot in Kuna County, Idaho, according to Eric Evans, owner of Eric Evans Construction in Meridian. Ms. Silsby told him it would have an indoor swimming pool, tennis courts and dormitories for the children, said Mr. Evans, adding that she had discussed having him build the project. Ms. Silsby's mother said she had never heard of any such plan.
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Ms. Silsby had purchased a two-story house in Meridian, where a neighbor said she was known for her blue Lexus convertible and her dog, Bentley. Her financial difficulties mounted last year. Idaho court records show several judgments against Ms. Silsby in 2009. Activity in the offices of Ms. Silsby's business, Personal Shopper Inc., visibly slowed, said Scotty Bates, a manager at SpeedyQuick Networks Inc., an Internet service provider whose office is in the same building as Personal Shopper. On Thursday, Personal Shopper's offices were locked and dark.
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Personal Shopper, whose Web site personalshopper.com, promises to guide shoppers to products that fit their needs, won Ms. Silsby a 2006 award as International Businesswoman of the Year from eWomen Network, a Texas-based international businesswomen's group. By last year it also was facing suits.
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One suit, filed in federal court in Miami, alleged that Personal Shopper owed more than $320,000 to Florida-based TSG Media Inc. The suit was settled in November 2008, according to an attorney for TSG, David Filler. He declined to disclose the terms of the settlement, but he said that Personal Shopper failed to make good on the settlement.
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"I must have talked with Laura Silsby once a week for the last year" trying to collect the settlement, Mr. Filler said. "She doesn't come across as a bad person. She always seemed like she was trying to do the right thing," he said, adding that she would often say, "But for God, we wouldn't be getting through this tough time."
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Nicklaus & Hyatt, a law firm listed in court documents as representing Ms. Silsby, didn't respond to requests for comment. Ms. Sander, acknowledged her daughter's financial difficulties, but added, "She is not an irresponsible person. It's just when the economy went south, her business struggled."
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In December, her house was foreclosed on, according to John Browning, a Boise broker who said he was hired to sell the house as part of the foreclosure.
Ms. Silsby said she would be leaving the country soon, said Mark Ehlhardt, who runs a UPS store in nearby Kuna where Ms. Silsby rented a mailbox.
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In late December. Ms. Silsby and Ms. Coulter went to the Dominican Republic and Haiti for a week. They had been back in Idaho only days when the earthquake struck on Jan. 12. They swung into action.
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According to the document posted online describing their plans, they planned to rent a 45-room hotel in Cabarete, a coastal town in the Dominican Republic near Magante, where they intended to house Haitian children while building their permanent facility. The plan was to drive a bus to Port-au-Prince "and gather 100 orphans from the streets and collapsed orphanages," and return to the Dominican Republic, the document said.
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Group members left Meridian on Thursday evening, Jan. 21, and headed for the Salt Lake City airport in a large sport-utility vehicle pulling a U-Haul trailer. The next day, they flew to Santo Domingo, Mr. Coulter said. They brought with them 18 plastic tubs containing mostly donated clothing, diapers and other items intended for the children, said Mr. Coulter, who helped buy some of the bins.
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What documentation the group had for the children is unclear. Mr. Ham, the Meridian pastor, said he believes Ms. Silsby was in contact with a Haitian pastor involved with orphanages in the country.
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Last week, the group entered Haiti from the Dominican Republic, met with the pastor and gathered a group of children, Mr. Ham said. The group had signed permission "to take children from Haiti back to the Dominican Republic," as well as documentation from the Dominican Republic itself, he said. But when the group got to the border, Haitian officials told the group they lacked "one document," Mr. Ham said.
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Carlos Castillo, the Dominican Republic's consul general in Port-au-Prince, gave a different account: In an interview he said he met with Ms. Silsby on Friday and told her she lacked any documents to transport children, and warned her not to try or she could be arrested.

Haiti 'orphans' face a life of neglect and pain (2/5/2010)

The Miami Herald
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BY SCOTT HIAASEN KATHLEEN McGRORY JACQUELINE CHARLES AND TRENTON DANIEL
shiaasen@MiamiHerald.com
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In the fall of 2008, a pastor traveled through the barren countryside of Haiti asking parents to give him their children. He promised an education and a better life at an orphanage he said was bankrolled by Americans. Twenty-eight children were sent with the pastor. But his promise proved false: Within three months, one child had died, and two dozen more were sick and emaciated when discovered by Haitian police, according to United Nations reports on the incident. Even before the Port-au-Prince earthquake left as many as 300,000 children homeless -- and before the spotlight fell on 10 Idaho missionaries charged with kidnapping Haitian kids -- Haiti was a country where children were commonly reduced to a commodity. They were smuggled across the border as cheap labor, peddled for black-market adoptions, abandoned by their parents or forced into servitude, records and interviews show.
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Despite the constant urging of human rights organizations, Haiti's government has made little progress toward protecting its children from exploitation or neglect, a Miami Herald examination found. By its own account, the government inspected only half of the country's documented orphanages -- and no one can say how many orphanages work off the books. The situation is sure to worsen. Thousands more children were left homeless or lost parents in the earthquake, while the country's feeble safety net was left in tatters.
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``The government must care for the children,'' said Father Luc Jolicoeur of the Good Shepard orphanage in Port-au-Prince's Delmas neighborhood. He said no government inspector has ever visited his orphanage, where he fed oatmeal breakfasts to 78 boys Thursday morning. ``No one asked me anything,'' Jolicoeur said. ``That means those children are forgotten.''
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Many Haitian orphanages open with good intentions, and the plight of the suddenly parentless in the impoverished country has triggered an outpouring of people rushing to Haiti. Yet even those wanting to help enter a system woefully unregulated and facing a crushing need that overwhelms. Haiti's record before the Jan. 12 earthquake showed just how vulnerable to abuse the country's children have been. Consider:
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• In September, U.S. prosecutors indicted Douglas Perlitz, a Colorado missionary, on charges that he used food and gifts to extract sexual favors from teens at an orphanage he ran in northern Haiti. The orphanage was financed with donations from a Connecticut church group. Perlitz has pleaded not guilty.
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• Two years ago, two Canadian aid workers were convicted in their home country of sexually abusing boys at an orphanage in southern Haiti.
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• In 2007, the International Organization for Migration discovered 47 children who were solicited from their parents by the operators of a rogue adoption center in Port-au-Prince.
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• That same year, Haitian police arrested the operator of an orphanage housing 32 children being offered in black-market adoptions.
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Haiti is overwhelmed with children with nowhere to go. Thirty-eight percent of the population is under 15, nearly double the U.S. rate of 20 percent.
Nobody knows how many Haitian children are living in orphanages or group homes -- making the problem hard to measure and harder to trace.
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UNICEF estimated that roughly 50,000 children in Haiti lived in orphages before the earthquake, but the nonprofit Save the Children puts the figure at 380,000. After the earthquake, the number of vulnerable children is estimated to be as high as one million.
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Unaccompanied children now wander the cramped, chaotic squalor of Port-au-Prince's tent camps, seeking food and protection from strangers. Joseph Marcel built a tent from cardboard, tarp and twine for 50 kids in the camp called Maïs-Gaté after the earthquake cracked the walls of his orphanage. Twenty new children have joined him in the past three weeks.
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``None of the authorities have contacted us,'' Marcel said. ``That is the biggest struggle. They don't ask for information. They don't ask how I'm living with the children. They don't offer any help.''
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Some children have drifted into the fold of other families. Charnell Bonhomme, 13, has been in the care of his neighbors after he stumbled upon them in a tent camp called Champs de Mars. Bonhomme's parents were killed when their house collapsed.
``His uncle and his older brother know where he is,'' said Marie-Ange Pierre, 43, the boy's adoptive mother. ``But we are his family now. We pulled together when that happened.''
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For some families, the burden is too much, and they have resorted to desperate measures -- willingly offering their own children to foreign aid workers and journalists.
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In the Maïs-Gaté camp, Jean Fernand Auguste said the foreigners offer the only chance of a better life for her 8-year-old daughter, Difrancesca.
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``I want her to have a good education,'' Auguste said. ``It doesn't matter if it is in the United States or Haiti. She is beautiful. She is a good daughter.''
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At the Champs de Mars camp, Orianna Gilbert offered Josena, the 8-month-old baby on her hip. If a foreigner wouldn't take her, Gilbert planned to take the child to an orphanage. ``I don't have the things a baby needs,'' she said. ``It's impossible.''
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Even before the earthquake, it was not uncommon for parents to give up their children. More than 200,000 are in forced domestic servitude. Meanwhile, aid groups estimate that less than half of the children in orphanages were true orphans. Most were kids whose parents simply had no way to care for them.
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``There are such levels of poverty that a family will put a child in an orphanage just so that they get fed,'' said Melissa Winkler of the International Rescue Committee.
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Experts believe most of the country's orphanages -- several of which are financed or managed by American charities or church groups -- operate without any regulation or oversight. Only about 600 orphanages are officially registered with the government. Inspectors reach just 300 of those, according to UNICEF.
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The owners of some facilities don't consider themselves orphanages, and feel no need to submit to government oversight. Karen Bultje, who runs an unregistered home called Coram Deo in Delmas, said all but one of the 13 children in her care were brought by their families.
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``They're not true orphans without a mother and father,'' Bultje said. ``I'm helping out families because the families can't look after them.'' Yet a disturbing pattern of exploitation has also emerged from the orphanage industry, Haitian officials say -- illustrated most recently by the case of the 10 American missionaries, who were charged Thursday with kidnapping for trying to cross Haiti's border with 33 undocumented children.
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The missionaries have said they planned to set up an orphanage for earthquake orphans in the Dominican Republic. Haitian police said the group was planning adoptions for the kids without government approval, and many of the children found with the missionaries were not orphans at all; they had been solicited from their families.
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Aid workers and Haitian officials say in many cases parents are tricked or manipulated into giving up their children to traffickers, not realizing the kids could be taken out of the country.
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``If they believe this person can save their child, they will choose to give the child away,'' Haiti's Social Affairs Minister, Yves Christalin, told The Miami Herald. ``But when the shock is over, many begin to realize the error of their decision.''
Many of the unaccompanied children around Port-au-Prince may only be separated from surviving parents or relatives who cannot yet find them.
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``We know from past emergencies that these things take time,'' said Rebecca Fordham of UNICEF'S child-protection office. ``Children have been reunited, sometimes in a matter of days.''
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For years, the Haitian government has struggled to cope with the orphanage industry and curb child trafficking. In 2002, the Haitian police founded the Brigade for the Protection of Minors, a special squad targeting traffickers. Yet human-rights groups and the U.S. State Department have called it understaffed and ill-equipped. In 2008, Amnesty International reported that the squad -- which had fewer than 20 officers -- did not even have access to a car.
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Now the Haitian government is increasing security at the airports and along the border, Christalin said. No child will be allowed to leave the country without government approval, he said.
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The government has made little headway addressing Haiti's other child-welfare crisis: the pervasive custom of forced domestic servitude known as restavek, Creole for ``stay with.''
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A recent study found that about 225,000 children, most of them girls, are forced to work as servants in the homes of relatives. These children are often sent from rural areas to homes in Port-au-Prince, where they were offered -- often falsely -- a chance to go to school.
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Instead, the children are forced to work, and are often abused, neglected and discarded. One health study found that 15-year-old restavek children weighed 40 pounds less on average than other kids about their age.
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Because these restaveks were rural children sent to the capital, experts believe many will be among the thousands on the streets of Port-au-Prince.
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Now aid groups such as UNICEF and Save the Children and the Haitian government are trying to figure out what to do with them all. This weekend, UNICEF plans to begin canvassing the tent cities to identify and register unaccompanied children. Aid workers will photograph the children and build a database to help reconnect missing children with their parents -- a tricky task in a nation where birth certificates are rare, and where so much was destroyed.
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``If they don't remember where they live, they might do a drawing or say that their house is next to a church,'' said Miguel Fontaine, a UNICEF child-protection advisor.
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The primary goal is to reunite children with their families, even with distant relatives. For those children with no place to go, the country offers few options. UNICEF is organizing teams to inspect still-standing orphanages and locate available bed space. But many orphanages had already swelled to capacity before the earthquake. Last week, Rolande Fernandez of the Bresma orphanage near Petionville said he had already turned away five children.
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``We can take one or two but not more than that,'' Fernandez said. ``We don't have the structure. We don't have the food.''

Haitian parents willingly gave children to US Baptists

2/3/2010
By Frank Bajak
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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100203/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/cb_haiti_americans...
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CALLEBAS, Haiti, 3 Feb (AP) -- Parents in this struggling village above Haiti's capital said Wednesday they willingly handed their children to American missionaries who showed up in a bus promising to give them a better life – contradicting claims by the Baptist group's leader that the children came from orphanages and distant relatives.
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The 10 Baptists, most from Idaho, were arrested last week trying to take 33 Haitian children across the border into the Dominican Republic without the required documents, according to outraged Haitian officials, who have called them child traffickers.
An investigating magistrate was questioning the five men Wednesday after interrogating the women a day earlier. A district attorney will then determine whether to file charges, officials said.
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The Haitian parents told The Associated Press they surrendered their children on Jan. 28, two days after a local orphanage worker acting on behalf of the Baptists convened nearly the entire village of about 500 people on a dirt soccer pitch to present the Americans' offer.
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The orphanage worker, Issac Adrien, said he told the villagers their children would be educated at a home in the Dominican Republic so that they might eventually return to take care of their families. Many parents jumped at the offer. The village school had collapsed and their homes were destroyed in Haiti's catastrophic Jan. 12 quake, and they had no money to feed the children, they said.
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"It's only because the bus was full that more children didn't go," said Melanie Augustin, a 58-year-old who gave her 10-year-old daughter, Jovin, to the Americans. Ironically, Augustin had adopted Jovin because her birth parents couldn't afford to care for her.
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Adrien said he brought the Americans to this mountain village where people scrape by growing carrots, peppers and onions. He told the AP he met their leader, Laura Silsby of Boise, Idaho, at a school in Port-au-Prince two days earlier. Silsby said she was looking for homeless children, Adrien said, adding that he went that very day to talk to the parents in Callebas.
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In a jailhouse interview Saturday, Silsby told the AP that most of the children had been delivered to the Americans by distant relatives, while some came from orphanages that had collapsed in the quake. The missionaries' lawyer, Jorge Puello, told the AP on Wednesday "they willingly accepted kids they knew were not orphans because the parents said they would starve otherwise."
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The parents of four children taken by Silsby said the Americans took down contact information for all the families and assured them that a relative would be able to visit them in the Dominican Republic. Silsby's Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, had begun planning last year to build an orphanage, school and church in Magante, on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. Their plan was to work with U.S. adoption agencies to find "loving Christian parents" for Haitian and Dominican children.
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When the quake struck, the church members decided to act immediately, renting a hotel in a nearby Dominican beach resort and hiring a bus to collect children from the disaster area.
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Adrien said he had no knowledge of the group's larger plans; villagers said they were told none of their children would be offered for adoption. Laurentius Lelly, a 27-year-old computer technician, said he gave up his two children, ages 4 and 6, because Silsby had previously visited the area and earned people's trust.
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Lelly said he is no longer so sure about her trustworthiness, and said he was worried the Haitian judicial system would fail to properly investigate the case. No Haitian police or social welfare investigators have visited the village since the Americans were arrested at the border, the parents said.
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"I would like to find out if these people were really going to help the kids or were trying to steal them," Lelly said. The children, ranging in age from 2 to 12, are now being cared for at the Austrian-run SOS Children's Village in Port-au-Prince. An official there, Patricia Vargas, said none of the children who were old enough to talk said they were parentless. "Up until now we have not encountered any who say they are an orphan," she said.
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A Haitian-born pastor who apparently helped the Baptist group insisted Wednesday the Americans had done nothing wrong. The Rev. Jean Sainvil told the AP that some of the children were orphans and might have been put up for adoption. Children with parents were to be kept in the Dominican Republic, and would not lose contact with their families, Sainvil said in Atlanta.
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"Everybody agreed that they knew where the children were going. The parents were told, and we confirmed they would be allowed to see the children and even take them back if need be," he said.
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Most parents said they wouldn't know what to do if they had to take the children back. "I am living in a tent with a friend," said Lelly, who said most of his wife's close relatives were killed. "My main concern is that if the kids come back I'm not going to be able to feed them."
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Prime Minister Max Bellerive has suggested the Americans could be prosecuted in the United States because Haiti's shattered court system may not be able to cope with a trial.
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"It is clear now that they were trying to cross the border without papers. It is clear now that some of the children have live parents. And it is clear now that they knew what they were doing was wrong," Bellerive told the AP. The White House has said the case remains in Haitian hands for now.

Baptists, Scientologists in Haiti 'trying to buy souls'

2/2/2010
USA Today
By Thomas Coex
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Port-au-Prince is so chock-a-block with well-meaning volunteers-without-portfolio -- folks answering God's prompting in their hearts without heeding laws or respecting local culture -- that established aid agencies are slowed down trying to clean up after them. And local faith leaders are insulted by the onslaught.
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New York Times blogger Robert Mackey points out today that not only Catholics are concerned about the evangelical stampede for orphans -- or any child not standing next to a parent.
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Max Beauvoir, a chemist educated in New York who leads Haiti's national federation of voodoo priests, complained to The Associated Press, "There are many who come here with religious ideas that belong more in the time of the Inquisition ... These types of people believe they need to save our souls and our bodies from ourselves. We need compassion, not proselytizing now, and we need aid not just aid going to people of the Christian faith.
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Beauvoir, alarmed by the arrival of ministers from the Church of Scientology as well as aid workers from Pat "Pact-with-Satan," Robertson's group, accused American evangelists of "trying to buy souls" with "some little cakes that they've brought," Mackey writes.
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Let's flip this around. Imagine your nephew were suddenly orphaned, that strangers took him to another country without looking for you, and arranged for him to be adopted by a family that didn't accept your faith. Would the Idaho Baptist mission group, the folks who got in hot water for their Haitian rescue run, been OK with their extended family being whisked away and reared in a nice, safe house by smart, kind people who never mention Christ? Would you?

Haitian missionaries

I am thoroughly angered and disgusted by what those missionaries did, taking those children. They used the poverty and desperation of a people to run their agenda. If they really cared why didn't they send a nonpartisan teacher into the community sensitive and respectful to Haitian culture,set up medical care, food, and supportive systems within that community, also build a swimming pool, which apparently is what some of the missionaries told the parents, that the children would have a swimming pool. Doing this and keeping families intact, I think, would cost less than kidnapping and raising these children while brainwashing them with their beliefs.
I adopted a child from another country the legal way. I think these people should be prosecuted for kidnapping and trafficking by the full extent of the law. Although I am sure there are good and caring missionaries out there working for the good of the people I do not feel this particular incident is the case.

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