PAINESVILLE, Ohio (WJW) – Efforts to secure the release of more than a dozen missionaries being held hostage in Haiti are intensifying at the local, state and federal level.
Christian Aid Ministries, based in the heart of Northeast Ohio’s Amish country, confirmed that 17 people connected to the organization, including 5 children, were kidnapped after leaving an orphanage outside Port-Au-Prince on Saturday.
On Tuesday, officials confirmed that a notorious Haitian gang is demanding $17 million for their safe release, or $1 million per hostage.
Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown responded, saying that his office is now working with the U.S. State Department to help rescue the missionaries.
“Fortunately, our diplomats know how to deal with situations like this with a minimum of violence,” said Brown.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also addressed the ransom demands, saying that the United States does not pay ransoms because that only encourages more kidnappings.
“We know these groups target U.S. citizens who they assume have resources and finances to pay ransoms even if that is not the case,” said Psaki.
While the FBI and other agencies are reportedly coordinating their efforts too, in Painseville, Bishop Gerard Mirbel from the Miracle Revival Ministry, who is from Haiti, has also released his own call to action.
“I’m asking all the bishops to join together in prayer, making requests for these people to be released as soon as possible,” said Bishop Mirbel.
The Bishop says he owes his life to the missionaries he met as a child growing up in the island nation.
It’s also how he met his wife, Lady Bishop Jacqueline Mirbel.
Together they have traveled to Haiti more than a dozen times on similar missionary trips. They call the current tragedy extremely distressing.
“It’s unbearable right now,” said Bishop Mirbel. “I am a product of missionary. Because of missionary, I am here in the ministry. Because of missionary, I became a pastor, a believer and a bishop.”
The couple hopes the gang members will realize they have nothing to gain and release the hostages without harming them.
“One million a piece. If they had that kind of money they wouldn’t be in Haiti right now,” added his wife, Lady Bishop Jacqueline Mirbel.
“They don’t have anything. They give everything, they give everything they have,” said Bishop Mirbel, “Release the people before it is too late.”