Haiti unrest strands a number of US church groups

A police officer walks through the parking lot of the Delimart supermarket complex, where vehicles sit charred and looted merchandise lies scattered after two days of protests against a planned hike in fuel prices in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sunday, July 8, 2018. Government officials had agreed to reduce subsidies for fuel as part of an assistance package with the International Monetary Fund, but the government suspended the fuel hike after widespread violence broke out. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

(AP) — Volunteer groups from several U.S. states were stranded in Haiti on Sunday (July 8) after violent protests over fuel prices canceled flights and made roads unsafe.

Church groups from South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Alabama are among those that haven’t been able to leave, according to newspaper and television reports.

Some flights were resuming Sunday afternoon, according to airline officials and the flight tracking website FlightAware. American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein said in an email that two flights bound for Miami and one for New York had taken off Sunday afternoon.

But even getting to an airport could be risky, U.S. officials warned. The U.S. State Department issued an alert Sunday urging its citizens on the island to shelter in place and not to go to an airport unless travelers had confirmed their departing flight was taking off.

Dr. Salil Bhende, a North Carolina dentist, said in a phone interview that a group of about 16 dental clinic volunteers was supposed to fly out Sunday from Port-au-Prince but couldn’t make it to the airport because the roads were unsafe. After encountering rubble and garbage in the road, the group turned back to a church about 45 minutes outside the capital city where it was staying. Airline officials told the group it might not be able to get a flight home until Tuesday, Bhende said.

“There were a lot of blockages,” he told The Associated Press. “It was very difficult to get to the airport, so we just turned around, basically, to be safe.”

Another member of the group, Pastor Fred Stapleton of Cornerstone Covenant Church in western North Carolina, said the volunteers have plenty of food and feel safe in the church.

“Nobody here is afraid for their life, or anything like that,” he said. “The people have taken care of us. We’ve been kept in a safe place.”

Chapin United Methodist Church in South Carolina posted online Sunday that its mission team is safe but stranded. Marcy Kenny, assimilation minister for the church, told The State newspaper that the group is hoping the unrest will abate enough for the team to make it to the airport.

“They’re just waiting for things to die down a little bit,” Kenny said.

About 30 volunteers from a Bradenton, Fla., church were unable to make it to the airport Saturday because of protesters blocking the streets, according to the Bradenton Herald.

The group from Woodland Community Church includes about 18 teens, plus ministers and a handful of parents, said Jill Kramer, whose 15-year-old daughter is on the trip. They tried to leave for the airport early Saturday but turned back after they encountered protesters.

Kramer, who spoke to her daughter by phone, said the group has food, water and safe shelter at the nonprofit group where the team had been working.

“The mission team, the directors, they all decided it just wasn’t worth it to go farther,” Kramer told the newspaper.

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  • By that I assume you mean that Norway was never colonized by France like Haiti was. Otherwise one would have to assume that you are, like so many Trump admirers, indulging in a favorite pastime: using coded racist dog whistles in order to express your contempt for our darker complexioned brethren, and I know that couldn’t possibly be the case.

  • Perhaps the ancestors of the inhabitants of Norway were not kidnapped from their homes and sent to an island to work until they died – a period that in Haiti averaged about 2 years. It seems the “civilized” Europeans found it more economical to simply buy more slaves when the current underfed batch had been worked to death.

    The inhumanity of christian europeans casts a long shadow.

  • Haiti is, like Afghanistan, mostly ungovernable. The culture just doesn’t want to civilize itself.

    Trump gets called evil for calling such places as they really are, by people who have never been to places like this.

    I had a friend who is married with no children…they have plenty of income to globetrot several times a year.

    He was all mad at Trump when he called these places dungholes…..I asked him about his upcoming travel plans..and he listed: Canada, Ireland, England, Poland, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Australia…..then I asked him why – given all the travel that he and his wife do have they never gone to Haiti for vacation, or Djibouti, or Somalia, or Tunisia, or Nigeria, or Algeria?


    He’s black by the way.

  • Been to Haiti many times. Found some of the best people I have ever met it my life there. I’ll be going back. Can’t wait to get back.

  • If these Christians are doing god’s work, why are they huddling like cowards? Where is their god to offer protection? Why haven’t their prayers been answered?

  • You can see from satellite imagery the difference in vegetation between the two countries at their border and within each country. Haiti has logged most of their forests and are susceptible to mudslides and flooding. Haiti was exploited and then ruined by their own political processes.