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“We glorify God for answered prayer—The remaining 12 missionaries abducted in Haiti have been released

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Haitian kidnappers released the remaining 12 missionaries who were abducted two months ago, the U.S. missionary group and Haitian officials said Thursday, ending a long hostage drama that brought to light an epidemic of kidnappings in Haiti by powerful criminal gangs.

“We glorify God for answered prayer—the remaining 12 hostages are FREE!,” the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said in a statement posted on its website. “All 17 of our loved ones are now safe.”

The hostages—16 Americans and one Canadian, including five children—were abducted in October by a gang known as the 400 Mawozo, or 400 country bumpkins. At the time of the kidnapping, the children ranged in age from eight months to 15 years old. Five of the hostages were released in recent weeks, the missionary group said.

The gang had demanded a ransom of $1 million per person, Haitian officials have said. The alleged gang leader said in a video posted on YouTube that he was willing to kill the hostages if his demands weren’t met. It was unclear if any ransom was paid. Haitian analysts said they didn’t think the gang would have released hostages without payment.

Frantz Elbé, the head of the Haitian national police, confirmed the hostages had been freed but declined to provide additional details. The Federal Bureau of Investigation didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The U.S. Embassy in Haiti declined to comment. The Biden administration had sent FBI agents to Haiti to help secure the release of the hostages.

“We welcome reports that they are free and getting the care that they need after their ordeal,” said deputy White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. President Biden has received daily updates since the missionaries were abducted, she said.

Local residents found the 12 hostages alone early Thursday morning near Morne à Cabrit, some 13 miles north of Titanyen, where the mission’s headquarters are located, a senior Haitian police officer said. The missionaries were abducted in mid-October.

The residents found the hostages in good condition and immediately alerted police. The senior police official said he didn’t know whether any ransom had been paid. Seven men, four women and a teenager made up the group freed Thursday, the senior police official said.

The release ends an international political headache for the Biden administration and is welcome news for Haiti, one of the world’s poorest nations. The country has been undergoing one of the worst political and economic crises in its history since the assassination of its president, Jovenel Moïse, in July. The investigation into Mr. Moïse’s killing appears to have stalled.

Nearly 200 criminal gangs control more than half the nation’s territory. Gangs have kidnapped hundreds of Haitians, sparing neither poor nor rich and terrifying the nation since the assassination.

At least 41 U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents have been kidnapped for ransom in Haiti this year, according to Brian Nichols, the top State Department official for the Western Hemisphere.

In the case of the missionaries, a ransom was likely paid, said Gédéon Jean, the head of the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights, a Port-au-Prince-based organization that tracks kidnappings. He said that in every case since 1973 in which an American has been kidnapped, a ransom is believed to have been paid.

“They would not release them without payment,” said Pierre Esperance, the director of the Haitian National Human Rights Defense Network, an advocacy group.

Mr. Jean said the possible failing health of the hostages from hardships they faced in captivity may also have played a role in their release. “The 400 Mawozo know they can’t afford for a single American hostage to die,” he said. “They know that if they cross that line, the U.S. reaction will be fierce.”

The 400 Mawozo gang operates in an 8-square-mile zone with plenty of places to stash captives, said Alexander Galvez, Dominican-Haitian journalist and radio talk show host who was kidnapped by the gang in late November and held for nine days. He described the details of his captivity in an interview last week on Dominican TV station Telemicro just after his release.

The kidnappers use military rank among themselves and operate like a military unit, he said, adding that they boast sophisticated communications equipment and weaponry.

“They have everything. Luxury cars, a lot of space and money,” Mr. Galvez said in the television interview.

Mr. Galvez said he was abducted by eight armed kidnappers, four of whom were in a car with diplomatic plates. He said his feet and hands were bound during captivity. He was allowed to bathe once a day, and fed twice a day, spaghetti in the morning and rice at night.

Kidnappers telephoned his family and demanded one million Haitian gourdes, or about $10,000, for his release. The family eventually paid an undisclosed sum.

Mr. Jean said at least 803 people have been abducted in Haiti this year through the end of October, including 54 foreigners. A person who works to resolve kidnapping cases in Haiti said about 20 people a day are currently being abducted. If there are no arrests in the kidnappings of the missionaries, abductions—especially those targeting foreigners—are likely to increase further, analysts said.

Aside from kidnappings for ransom, criminal gangs exert their strength in other ways.

Earlier this fall, a coalition of gangs called G9 blocked access to Haiti’s main fuel terminal, causing devastating shortages across the country. Hospitals and other institutions had to drastically cut back their operations, and the price of gasoline shot up to $25 a gallon. Jimmy Cherizier—a former police officer also known as Barbecue who heads G9—eventually lifted the blockade.

Earlier this month, the U.S. and Canadian governments urged their citizens to leave the country. Immigration experts say Haiti’s deteriorating economy and descent into violence will likely fuel increased migration to the U.S. Some 1,500 Haitians were detained at sea while heading to the U.S. in fiscal year 2021, which ended in September, more than three times the number during the previous year.

Mr. Biden has flatly ruled out any military intervention in Haiti, a country of more than 11 million people, but has ramped up financial and technical assistance to the embattled Caribbean country, senior Haitian officials say. Since Mr. Moïse’s assassination, the U.S. has funneled some $50 million to improve the training and capabilities of the national police.
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American tourist arrested for vandalizing Jesus statue at church in Jerusalem: ‘You can’t have idols’

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An American tourist has been arrested for vandalizing a statue of Jesus Christ at a church in Jerusalem, reportedly due to his belief that the statue constituted idolatry.

A man in his 40s, whose name has not been released to the press, was arrested Thursday after he defaced and broke parts of a statue of Jesus at the Franciscan Church of the Condemnation, a property that includes the Church of the Flagellation.

In a video taken at the church, the man could be heard shouting, “you can’t have idols in Jerusalem, this is a holy city,” Fox News reported.

According to tradition, the church was built on the space believed to be where Jesus was flogged by the Roman soldiers back in the first century and presented with a cross to carry.

“We take very seriously damage to religious institutions and sites,” an Israeli police spokesperson said in a statement. “The police will continue to act against acts of violence and vandalism in the holy places of all religions.”

Custodia Terrae Sanctae, a Franciscan organization that oversees the care and protection of Catholic Church holy sites in the Middle East, released a statement denouncing the vandalism.

The vandalism marked the fifth incident within the last month, according to Custodia Terrae Sanctae, which cited examples of recent vandalism that included attacks on a monastery and a local Christian cemetery.

“We follow with concern and strongly condemn this growing succession of serious acts of hatred and violence against the Christian community in Israel,” added Custodia Terrae Sanctae. “It is no coincidence that the legitimization of discrimination and violence in public opinion and in the current Israeli political environment also translates into acts of hatred and violence against the Christian community.”

The group went on to call upon the Israeli government to “act decisively to guarantee security for all communities, to guarantee the protection of religious minorities and to eradicate religious fanaticism.”

Last month, a group of people believed to be radical Jewish Israelis attacked an Armenian restaurant in the Christian quarter of the city, waving Israeli flags and throwing chairs at patrons.

The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land denounced the violence leveled against the restaurant, expressing concern over “the escalation of violence in the Holy City.”

“This unprovoked violence instilled fear in the shopkeepers and residents of the Christian quarter as well as visitors,” stated the Assembly.

“It is only the latest in a series of episodes of religious violence that is affecting the symbols of the Christian community and beyond.”
Sources:Christian Post

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ക്രിസ്ത്യൻ അഭയാർത്ഥികൾക്ക് അഭയവിസകൾ നൽകണമെന്ന് യുഎസ് കോൺഗ്രസിനോട് ഫിയകോന

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ന്യൂയോർക് :മതപരമായ അക്രമത്തിന് ഇരയായ ക്രിസ്ത്യൻ അഭയാർത്ഥികൾക്ക് 10,000 അഭയവിസകൾ നീക്കിവെക്കണമെന്നും മതപരമായ അക്രമത്തിന് ഇരയായവർക്കും വ്യാജ പോലീസ് കേസുകൾ ചുമത്തപ്പെട്ടവർക്കും ഇന്റർനാഷണൽ നിയമത്തിനു വിധേയമായി അമേരിക്കൻ കോടതികളിൽ പോലീസിനും സർക്കാർ ഉദ്യോഗസ്ഥർക്കും എതിരെ കേസ് ഫയൽ ചെയ്യാൻ അനുവദിക്കുന്ന ഒരു നിയമം പാസാക്കണമെന്നും ഫെഡറേഷൻ ഓഫ് ഇന്ത്യൻ അമേരിക്കൻ ക്രിസ്ത്യൻ ഓർഗനൈസേഷൻ ജനുവരി 30 നു പുറത്തിറക്കിയ വാർഷീക റിപ്പോർട്ടിൽ യുഎസ് കോൺഗ്രസിനോട് ആവശ്യപ്പെട്ടു.

ഇന്ത്യൻ ക്രിസ്ത്യൻ സമൂഹത്തിനുണ്ടായ നഷ്ടം കണക്കാക്കുകയും അക്രമത്തിന് ഇരയായവർക്ക് ഇന്ത്യൻ സർക്കാർ നഷ്ടപരിഹാരം നൽകണമെന്ന് തുടർന്നു റിപ്പോർട്ടിൽ ആവശ്യപ്പെട്ടു. പൗരന്മാരെ സംരക്ഷിക്കുന്നതിൽ ഭരണകൂടം പരാജയപ്പെട്ടതിന്റെ ഫലമാണ് ഈ നഷ്ടം സംഭവിച്ചതെന്ന് ഫിയകോന വിലയിരുത്തി. ഇന്ത്യയിൽ ഇതുവരെ ആരും ഇത് ഉന്നയിച്ചിട്ടില്ല. USAID അല്ലെങ്കിൽ DoS പോലുള്ള യുഎസ് ഏജൻസികൾ ഈ വിഷയത്തിൽ കൂടുതൽ പര്യവേക്ഷണം ചെയ്യാൻ ആഗ്രഹിക്കുന്നുവെങ്കിൽ വിശദമായ പഠനം നടത്താനും ഫിയകോന തയാറാണെന്നും പ്രസിഡന്റ് കെ ജോർജ് (ന്യൂയോർക് )പറഞ്ഞു
Sources:globalindiannews

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Church mourns pastor, wife who died trying to save son from drowning at the beach

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A Brazilian church is mourning the loss of a pastor and his wife, who died attempting to save their teenage son from drowning at the beach.

Felisberto Sampaio, 43, and his wife, Inalda Sampaio, 42, saw their 13-year-old son, Ian Sampaio, struggling in the water at Camacari Beach in Brazil on Jan. 10. The couple entered the ocean to rescue the boy, but they failed to reach him.

As Brazilian news outlet Universo Online reported, the incident occurred around 10 a.m., citing the Civil Police, who reported that the boy was rescued by a fisherman and another family member while his parents were not pulled from the water in time.

The Fire Department confirmed to UOL that the two victims were removed from the water. The department attempted to revive them, eventually declaring the couple dead at the scene.

The Sampaio family was from the city of Campina Grande in Brazil, and the father had been a pastor for 12 years at the Assembly of God Church in Quixaba, Paraíba, according to The Daily Mail. The family was spending a couple of days in the Paraíba city of Lucena.

Members of the church mourned the couple’s death, as well as Leonardo Meneses, a pastor at a church that the family had frequently attended.

“I know that the circumstances are painful and difficult for us to understand. Only eternity will explain all the mysteries of life,” Meneses said

The couple’s oldest son, Issac Sampaio, told TV Borborema on Jan. 11 that he planned to visit his parents before their tragic deaths. The eldest child said he last saw his parents on Jan. 8.

“The thing that goes through people’s minds is that it’s a lie,” he said.
Sources:Christian Post

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