By Anthony L. Hall:
Yesterday, 10 Baptist missionaries from the United States were formally charged with conspiracy and child kidnapping for allegedly trying to abscond from Haiti with 33 children.
They were arrested a week ago today while crossing the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The missionaries claim that all of the children were left homeless, and in some cases orphaned, by the January 12 earthquake. And that they had proper authorization - such as could be granted by Haiti’s fractured government.
Yet they now face 5 to 15 years in prison and remain in custody pending further determination by an investigative judge; i.e., no bail!
But, even for Haiti, this is surreal:
First and foremost, instead of inciting moral indignation, this story fills me with hope. After all, if law enforcement in Haiti is already functioning well enough to apprehend white-collar criminals, this must auger well for Haiti’s rapid recovery.
It’s just too bad the police do not appear to be doing as good a job of arresting the violent criminals who are preying on the millions of displaced women and children now living in tent cities all over Haiti.
Then there’s the almost farcical scene of these missionaries in court pleading that they were engaged in the work of the Lord, not in child trafficking. But am I the only one who thinks it’s crazy that these folks are being prosecuted for attempting to whisk 33 kids off to a better life when there are probably a thousand times that many desperately wishing, waiting for that opportunity...?
Whatever the case, this story is an unfortunate distraction; not least because the international media are now focusing far more on the fate of these 10 missionaries than on the fate of 10 million Haitians.
Frankly, this judge would be well-advised to release these missionaries on humanitarian grounds as soon as possible – recognizing the good, even if misguided, intentions of the defendants, as well as the overriding welfare of the Haitian people.
“That judge can free you but he can also continue to hold you for further proceedings.”
This, according to Reuters, is the damoclean hope the prosecutor offered the missionaries at their hearing yesterday. I have to think, though, that the judge will find in fairly short order that the dysfunctional nature of life in Haiti alone raises reasonable doubts about their guilt.
In any case, the charge of child trafficking becomes patently absurd when one considers that the missionaries had parental consent (in some cases); and moreover, that they were involved in trying to help poor Haitian children long before it became fashionable.
Not to mention that even if they were tried and convicted, former President Bill Clinton, who is now the de facto leader of that country, would procure an immediate pardon. This is, after all, the roving American ambassador who flew all the way to North Korea to procure the release of just two Americans who were convicted on equally dubious charges.
So, point made: Haitian children are not for sale! And a religious calling to “save the children” does not confer the right to circumvent the laws of poor, earthquake-ravaged Haiti to do so.
Now, for the sake of their country, I hope foolish pride does not prevent Haitian authorities from disposing of this case with dispatch.
NOTE: Many people are accusing these missionaries of cultural and religious arrogance. But I’ll bet that these are the same people who praised Madonna for taking kids from their poor parents in Malawi by promising that she could give them a better life - complete with Kabbalah indoctrination no doubt.
February 5, 2010