christian aid ministries haiti
Members of Christian Aid Ministries preparing meals for people affected by Hurricane Ida in Houma, La., in September. (Liz Hampton/Reuters)

NEW YORK — After 17 kidnapped missionaries were released in Haiti last year, local law enforcement sources reported that a ransom was paid for their release during the negotiation process. 

But until recently, the nonprofit Christian Aid Ministries did not acknowledge any ransom payment made to the 400 Mawozo gang, which kidnapped the missionaries in October. In recordings published on the Christian news site Plainnews.org, Christian Aid Ministries executive, Philip Mast, told a church congregation in Tennessee that a third-party individual paid a ransom that freed three of the missionaries on Dec. 5.

Two of the missionaries had already been released in late November, which according to the Associated Press, was due to medical reasons. 

The payment by the unidentified individual was supposed to free all of the hostages until the gang reneged on their offer, the Associated Press reported on Jan. 6. “I don’t think [the gang members] had the intention of releasing the prisoners,” Mast said. 

The circumstances of how the remaining 12 missionaries left their captivity is still unclear. An unnamed source with knowledge of the situation told the Yonkers Times of New York that the 400 Mawozo gang allowed the captives to escape on purpose, after receiving a ransom.

But in public statements, former captives and leaders of Christian Aid Ministries have said the remaining 12 hostages made a daring escape at an opportune time. 

“When they sensed the timing was right, they found a way to open the door that was closed and blocked, filed silently to the path that they had chosen to follow,” said Weston Showalter, a spokesperson for Christian Aid Ministries, on Dec. 20. “[They] quickly left the place where they were held, despite the fact that numerous guards were close by.”

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