Amid Turmoil, Haiti Finds Hope

We grieve for what we see, because we know Haiti’s potential. The country is beautiful, with many beaches, and could be a great spot for tourism. I’m sure many in the gangs are redeemable. But the stability isn’t there, and there is a lot of despair. El Salvador had a situation like this recently. President Nayib Bukele faced it by putting thousands of gang members in jail. He brought some peace. So we know with the right leadership you can turn things around. But many times people in leadership are connected to the gangs—that’s why you want the right leadership, who are not in relationship with the gangs.

Last week, 400 police officers from Kenya landed in Haiti, the first move in a United Nations–backed operation to try to stabilize the country. Over the last 18 months, Haitian gangs have kidnapped hundreds, killed thousands, and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.

In February, while then prime minister Ariel Henry was out of the country asking the Kenyans for international help, gangs stormed Haiti’s two largest prisons and released more than 4,000 inmates. They attacked the international airport in Port-au-Prince, grounding flights for nearly three months. And they looted the port, effectively blocking the capital from its last source of international aid.

The U.S. began airlifting Americans out of the country.

“Most missionaries left then,” said Mission to the World missionary Esaïe Etienne. A Haitian himself, he moved to the U.S. with his family in 1991. Two years later, he met a Haitian pastor planting a Presbyterian Church in America congregation.

“That’s how I learned my Westminster Confession of Faith,” he said. After graduating from Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, he began ministering to Haitians in Florida, then moved back to Haiti. He and his wife now live in the Dominican Republic and make regular visits back to their homeland.

“I’m not sure how many missionaries are left now,” he said. Two who opted to stay were shot by gangs last month.

“Especially since February, things have escalated to a different level,” Etienne said.

The Gospel Coalition asked him why Haiti is struggling, how its churches are doing, and how he prays for his country these days.

Haiti Has Had Trouble with Gangs since the 1950s, When a Dictator Named François Duvalier Used Them to Scare and Silence Dissidents. But the Country Also Struggles with Political Corruption and Persistently High Poverty. Why Is Haiti Always in Trouble?

Over the years, we’ve had a lot of different corrupt politicians and economic elite that come to power, one after another. It’s just selfishness. They come stealing money and go somewhere else to spend it. After they finish up a few years in power, they go into exile, in a sense with the money they have stolen.

Of course, there are exceptions. We’ve had administrations that have shown patriotism and love for the country. But the evil forces always get them out. So they never have time to make a long-lasting positive effect on the country.

The corrupt leaders sometimes arm young people and tell them to cause problems so the leaders can get elected. In the past three or four years, those young people are becoming autonomous. They have become directly connected with places to get guns and drugs. The gangs have also made a lot of money in kidnappings over the past four to five years and now they don’t need the politicians or economic elite anymore. It’s really chaos.

How Can Regular People Live in Conditions Like Those? Many Have Left—and Have Done So for Years. At One Point in the 1990s, There Were More Haitian Doctors in Chicago than in Haiti.

Lately, people who have a home or business in a gang-controlled area have had to leave.

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