The U.S. State Department is encouraging all Americans in Haiti to “depart now” as violence continues to rise in the Caribbean nation.
The announcement comes as 17 missionaries, including 16 Americans, are still being held hostage by a local gang that is demanding a $17 million ransom for their release.
“The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to make plans to depart Haiti now via commercial means. U.S. citizens should carefully consider the risks of traveling to or remaining in Haiti in light of the current security situation and infrastructure challenges,” a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Haiti said. The announcement was released on Wednesday.
“Widespread fuel shortages may limit essential services in an emergency, including access to banks, money transfers, urgent medical care, internet and telecommunications, and public and private transportation options. The U.S. Embassy is unlikely to be able to assist U.S. citizens in Haiti with departure if commercial options become unavailable,” the government warned. “Seats on commercial flights currently remain available.”
According to The Christian Post, attacks and violence have escalated recently in the country. About a week ago, Pastor Stanis Stifinson, student coordinator for the Evangelical Theological Seminary of Port-au-Prince, and his family were attacked while traveling in the area. One of his children was killed. Stifinson and his older son are in the hospital.
“We have interceded before God for the country that is plunging into unprecedented instability, for the victims of atrocities that Haitian families know, and especially for the family of the Step Student Affairs Coordinator,” the seminary wrote in a statement on its Facebook page Monday.
Officials with Christian Aid Ministries estimate that about half of the country is “under the control of gangs.”
“We request continued prayer for the kidnappers, that God would soften their hearts and that they would experience His love and goodness,” CAM wrote in a statement on Wednesday. “As you pray, remember the millions of Haitians who are suffering through a time of serious upheaval and unrest. We desire that God would be their ‘refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’ Psalm 46:1.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/John Seaton Callahan
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.