Six Catholic nuns along with others traveling on a bus in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, were kidnapped Friday, a Catholic organization said.
The nuns were from the country’s Congregation of the Sisters of St. Anne, according to a statement from P. Morachel Bonhomme, president of the Catholic Church-affiliated group Haitian Conference of the Religious.
He said “other occupants” of the bus were also taken and lamented “too many kidnappings” in Haiti are filling its people’s souls with “sadness and fear.”
“May the spirit of strength be given to the Sisters of St. Anne to find a way out of this terrible situation,” Bonhomme said. “May the solidarity of the consecrated people of Haiti and the world help them overcome this difficult ordeal.”
Though perpetrators have not been described or identified, the nation’s kidnapping epidemic is attributed to gangs that have become emboldened amid the chaos that followed the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.
Gangs have taken over about taken over about 80% of the geography of Port-au-Prince, according to the nonprofit Assessment Capacities Project, which provides data to humanitarian groups.
Violence has pushed more than 165,000 Haitians to abandon their homeland, a United Nations report published in June said.
“Gang attacks, extrajudicial killings, kidnappings and gender-based violence have become part of the daily lives of Haitians, forcing locals to flee their homes,” it said.
In August, American nurse Alix Dorsainvil and her child were kidnapped and held captive for nearly two weeks before they were released. The day they were kidnapped, the State Department ordered nonemergency U.S. government employees and families to leave Haiti.
The State Department said the country had become too perilous “due to kidnapping, crime, civil unrest, and poor health care infrastructure.” It designates Haiti as a “do not travel” country in an advisory to U.S. tourists.
In 2021, five priests and two nuns were kidnapped from a suburb of Port-au-Prince. Roman Catholic officials announced their release nearly three weeks later, but not before the Catholic Church temporarily closed down institutions to protest the abductions.
The U.N. said at least 1,694 people were killed, injured or kidnapped in one community alone, Bas-Artibonite, about 60 miles outside the capital, between 2022 and late 2023.