Haiti protests leave US church youth groups stranded in Caribbean nation as violence, roadblocks continue
As the violent protests in Haiti over fuel prices continued, youth groups from multiple U.S. churches have remained in the Caribbean nation, unable to get to the airport to travel home.
The nonprofit My Life Speaks said the mission teams from Woodland Community Church in Bradenton, Fla., and the Glade Church in Mount Juliet, Tenn., have stayed in Haiti, unable to get to the airport due to protests and roadblocks.
Major protests erupted in Haiti on Friday as the government announced a sharp increase in gasoline prices. Demonstrators burned tires and set up barricades to block major streets across the capital and in the northern city of Cap-Haitien.
At least three people were killed in the protests, including two protesters who were fatally shot as demonstrators clashed with police, The Associated Press reported. It was unclear who shot the two men.
A security guard was also killed after he got out of a vehicle and fired a gun into the air in an attempt to disperse protesters. The Associated Press reported a group of protesters beat him to death.
Mike Wilson, the founder of My Life Speaks, told WFLA-TV that the team attempted to avoid the protests by leaving for the airport early Saturday morning. However, as the mission team continued to get stopped by roadblocks, the leaders decided it would be safer to return to their compound in Neply.
“We ask that you continue to pray for us, the Haitian people who are hurting and those innocent people caught in the middle of this moment,” My Life Speaks said on Facebook.
The Tennessee nonprofit said the “team is making the most of their extra time in Haiti by spending time in the [community] and hanging out at the beach while we work to get them back to the U.S. as quickly and safely as possible.”
The compound is in a rural area away from the main roads, WFLA reported. Neply is 180 miles south of Cap-Haitien.
Jill Kramer, whose 15-year-old daughter is on the trip, told WFLA that the group did travel with armed guards when they attempted to get to the airport.
Additionally, another youth group from the Faith Community Church in Trussville, Ala., also remained stranded in Haiti Saturday, Pastor Mike Ennis told The Trussville Tribune. The 31-member team is in Haiti with the Mission of Hope nonprofit organization and is well-protected, Ennis said.
“Haiti is in a tough situation. We went to bring hope to an area that has very little hope,” the pastor said. “This validates why we went there in the first place.”
On Saturday, the Haitian government suspended the fuel price hike. It’s unclear when the mission teams will be able to make it back to the U.S.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.