Armed bandits invaded a church service in Haiti on Sunday as it was being streamed live on Facebook.
The incident occurred at Christ Rendez-vous Church in the Delmas 75, neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. In the video, seven choir members are on stage singing when one of them suddenly stops, and looking uncertain tries to make out the figures moving toward the stage. Then the members start to scatter, placing their microphones down before the screen goes dark.
In a post, the church’s pastor, Julio Volcy, then issues a plea for help. “Bandits invade the church. I ask for your help to pray for us,” he said.
A Haitian police spokesperson did not respond to a Miami Herald inquiry for comment and an attempt to reach Volcy was unsuccessful. Local media report that several worshipers were kidnapped and bandits were dressed in police SWAT uniforms.
Haiti is plagued by gang violence and kidnapping and not even houses of worship are immune. There are several incidents of people being kidnapped while attending church. In 2021, four people, including a pastor and a well-known pianist, were kidnapped and it also played out live on social media. The group, members of the Seventh-day Adventist Gospel Kreyòl Ministry Church in Diquini on the outskirts of metropolitan Port-au-Prince, were performing live on Facebook and YouTube in a studio adjacent to their church when a heavily armed man walked up to the stage and abducted them.
Haiti is seeing an unprecedented wave in gang violence. More than 2,500 people have died so far this year at the hands of gangs, the United Nations said, and at least 970 Haitians have been kidnapped. Thousands of others have been forced from their homes by gangs who have emptied out entire neighborhoods.
Among the latest victims of the violence is a U.S. citizen, Lauren Charles, who was reportedly ambushed by gangs in Port-au-Prince’s Cul-de-Sac plain and shot on Tuesday. A photo of her passport was circulated on Haitian social media and a family member, contacting the Miami Herald, said they are trying to find the document in order to have her body return to the U.S.
The latest wave of violence has also resulted in the forced displacement of over ten thousand people who have sought refuge in spontaneous camps and host families.
Last week, the United Nations Security Council approved the deployment of a multinational security mission into Haiti that will be led by the East African nation of Kenya.