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Churches respond to deadly gang violence in Haiti

Thousands of Haitian families have fled their homes after a spike in gang violence hits capital city Port-au-Prince.

By Andrew Horton | 25 Jun 2021

Credit: Tearfund

Credit: Tearfund

A sharp rise in gang violence has forced thousands of frightened Haitian families from their homes. Tearfund is working through local churches to meet the needs of people who are hungry and traumatised.

In the capital city, Port-au-Prince, people have seen their houses burned to the ground and their businesses destroyed – the city is in the midst of a crisis. Since early June, more than 17,000 people have been sleeping on the streets, on concrete floors in sports centres, or with friends and family.

‘The gangs came and started shooting, they forced entry into houses, pillaged what people had, forced people out and burned homes,’ says Luckson Baptiste, a local pastor from the Martissant area of the city.

‘They killed people who tried to get access to their homes again or [who] come back to the neighbourhood. Most of the families decided that they can't stay there anymore and decided to leave. I have a wife and three children, we had to leave immediately without taking any clothes or food,’ Luckson continues.

Deadly silence

Kesnel Augustin* also lives in the Martissant area. He was outside the city when the violence started. His wife and family were able to escape and met up with him at a temporary shelter later.

‘The situation is terrible,’ Kesnel says. ‘After a few days of being in the street, I tried to go back to the neighborhood to get my car. Even though I knew it was a major risk, I decided to go. When I arrived I was shocked because the entire neighborhood was deserted. No one was there, at all. Not a sound, either from families or from gang members.

‘I walked through the entire neighbourhood and saw no one. There was a very bad smell in the entire neighbourhood and I saw burned buildings. When I got to my house, I found that it had been pillaged, I did not even try to go inside. I have never seen anything like this,’ he says.

All-sufficient love

Tearfund is working through a network of churches to support families affected by the violence. We are giving out food and hygiene kits, as well as cash to help people who have been forced to relocate. Emotional support is also being offered to families and children who have been traumatised by what they have seen.

‘I want to say thank you for your support to me during this time,’ says Jefferson Nellier*, who is in his mid-sixties. ‘I received so many things – it was everything I needed. I received deodorant, soap, toilet paper, and even a razor so that I can shave. I also received rice, beans, oil, spaghetti, and so much more.

‘This was right on time because I'm blind and have been blind for 20 years and because of that I am unable to work or do anything else. Thank you and please continue to pray for me.’

Hope and healing

It is feared the violence could increase as Haiti prepares for its general elections in September and November. But Marc Antoine, who leads Tearfund’s work in Haiti, says it’s important that we ask God to bring hope and healing:

‘Pray for these families who have been displaced – pray for them as they are now traumatised by what they’ve seen and by what they’ve experienced.

‘There are now parents who are just unable to provide for their children. Not knowing what they will feed them. Not knowing what tomorrow will bring. Please keep them in your prayers.’

Pray with us

*Names changed to protect identities

Written by

Written by Andrew Horton

Andrew is Online News and Film Editor for Tearfund. This involves finding and writing up inspiring articles for the website, and capturing compelling stories on video.

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