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Friday, February 12, 2010

The Missionary Baby-Lift Case: The View from Haiti's Streets

The Missionary Baby-Lift Case: The View from Haiti's Streets

From Time Magazine

"The Haitian judicial system seems to be in agreement. On Thursday, the Haitian judge investigating the case said the Americans should be released from jail but must remain in the country pending a final verdict. The 10 Baptist missionaries from Idaho were arrested on Jan. 29 after trying to take 33 Haitian children across the border to the Dominican Republic without legal documentation. The American women have denied that their actions had anything to do with child trafficking."

A month after the cataclysmic event in an already fragile land where people were already inured to the daily task of eking out a living, we agree that the situation in Haiti is perilous for the children stuck in this judicial tangle. It is truly a day of mourning.

We also understand that for security reasons the defendants' faces are covered when carted to and from the court grounds. Locals do not enjoy such treatment. They are banged on the head instead. What's a bang?

And yet, the children were literally being "lifted" without legal documentation which in itself is deplorable. Much has been said about this.

What is apparent is that Haitian parents out of desperation and perhaps lack of knowledge envisage a great future for their kids in the hands of foreigners - missionaries.

Supposing, just in our wild imaginations, one or two of these, no, four of these kids made it out of the country and found themselves living in say Montgomery, Alabama, who is to say they are going to have a bright future?

Alabama? Yes, we have just been thinking that the children when finally settled would still find a number of challenges in their new bountiful, pardon, beautiful existence. All of those, nameless...

Surely, I would not mind handing over my offspring to, say, The Pitts, the Jolies or the Ciccones for I would know before hand where they would be landing into (hopefully!). Now, a bunch of good-intentioned and yet "flawed" bible-thumpers and the like. Oh, would I knot be perpetuating a vicious cycle I am so hard trying to get rid of?

Why am I worrying? Rambling disconnectedly?

Maybe at this juncture, working with the government as the guest in the CNN video is saying is the best thing to do.


  1. I wrote about this earlier this week in my blog, but have some additional thoughts I want to share with you.

    It remains my opinion that these folks violated Haitian law. However, the publicity this case is getting is taking away from the publicity the earthquake should get. Port-au-Prince lies in ruins and the people of Haiti need the assistance of the people of the world, and that includes Americans.

    If these 10 American missionaries are put in prison for child trafficking, which they rightly should be, you can bet the level of financial support from Americans will drop sharply. I think the Haitian government understands this and wishes the child trafficking case would just go away. I think that's what we are seeing now.

    If the Haitian President has it within his power to pardon people, he should just pardon the 10 missionaries even though they are guilty, get them out of Haiti as soon as possible, then get on with the business of earthquake recovery and pretend the whole child trafficking thing never happened.

  2. Larry, the situation in the country is so mired in desperation that anything that will bring order to the chaos is welcome, I offer. We should not however take the matter into our own hands and act as if they are a banana republic even if we can afford it.

    I hope those involved in the child scandal find their way out of this mess and let that be a wake up call to others.


  3. Hello, I'm wondering if we might have encountered each other in Jo's comment section, where I went on quite the soapbox tear about this very subject. If not, I wholeheartedly agree with you.

    The entire concept of approaching people, during their darkest and most frightening time, and asking for their children, is a predatory act, regardless of intent. The more information emerges, the more it seems the missionaries knew that many (the majority) of these children were not orphans.

    Obtaining "permission" under such duress negates the possibility of being able to give it.

    I do hope Haiti takes pity on these people, and sends them packing, but not until they've been held for a bit. I don't wish to see them made an example of in an undue manner, but I do hope they are held for long enough to drive the "good intentions" out of anyone thinking they are doing good works in a similar fashion.

    It was attempted kidnapping, even if the missionaries refuse to accept that. They were warned repeatedly that they would be breaking the law, and ahead they forged.

    The only reason I'm willing to say that I hope Haiti has mercy on them is that -- as deluded as I think they were being, I think they likely truly thought they were being helpful. Send them home, revoke their passports, let the message be sent out that it isn't okay to decide to take children in the name of any religious figure, or the name of anything.

    But if they're sort of uncomfortable and have reason to truly contemplate and regret their actions before being shown that mercy? I'm down with that. Haiti's got some HUGE problems right now, and they don't need to be saddled with the care and keeping of ten allegedly well-intentioned fools.

    By the same token, it's actually not safe to treat this instance too lightly. As for the children going to a better life? Whereas the situation in Haiti is desperate and frightening, the world is pouring forth aid: the situation is temporary, even though horrific. When the situation does improve, the natural order would be restored: parents would want their children with them, and deeply regret a panicked decision.

    Also, the earthquake was a devastating trauma, and it is also traumatic to uproot children from their cultures, and plunk them down among strangers (no matter their material fortune). It's better to bring in aid and keep the children with the people they actually need, right now, their family, and loved ones.

  4. You got that right, Shimp. Uprooting children is strictly a no-no. It does not matter, as you say, their material fortune. Besides, who's to say they are going to have a "bright" future?

    And that the missionaries should be held for just a bit - a slap on the wrist, really - for doing bad and to collect their thoughts could indeed serve as a wake-up call to future similar undertakings.

    Also, it is incredible how missionaries will invoke their Faith when faced with undue "adversity". In this case, they could have avoided the scandal.

    A CNN video says they attempted it twice. I cannot help but be sorry for them.