Armed with prayers, dozens of believers attempted to stand in the way of Canaan gang members this Saturday. No heavenly miracle spared their assassination
In one camp, dozens of Protestant believers, armed with sticks and machetes, with unwavering faith in a divine mission: to liberate the northern part of Port-au-Prince from the bloodthirsty criminals who kill, loot, and rape with impunity.
On the opposing side, weapons of war and a group of bandits exercising tight control over a loot-laden slum named Canaan.
On Saturday, August 26, 2023, no miracle allowed the believers of the « Église Évangelique Piscine de Bethesda, » led by Pastor Marcorel Zidor, also known as Marco, to escape what unfolded before everyone’s eyes as a decisive battle between David and Goliath.
At least seven believers are killed on the spot. Others are maimed. Caught in the intense crossfire of the gangs, the pastor fled on a motorcycle, leaving his flock at the mercy of the bandits: dozens of others who sought refuge, many of them kidnapped or severely wounded.
One of the first victims was reportedly a woman, a passenger on a makeshift motorcycle, recounted “Sister Beatrice” to AyiboPost. « A man was hit in the leg, » the woman, with dirt-stained clothes, stated at Pastor Marco’s church in Carradeux after the incident.
As a bandage was being applied to the bleeding wound of the man, the motorcycle approached to assist the injured. It was at that moment that his passenger collapsed: she died on the spot after being struck by a projectile, Sister Beatrice affirmed.
« We were cornered and surrounded by the bandits around Morne à Cabris, » the woman reports, while around her, dozens of believers struggle to hold back their tears.
« The justice system must inevitably hear Pastor Marco, » assesses Gédéon Jean, Executive Director of the Center for Analysis and Research on Human Rights (CARDH).
At the same time, this massacre requires a more thorough analysis, suggests the activist. « It’s shocking, » he says. « We’ve reached a point where citizens can’t count on the institutions. » He continues, « The population doesn’t believe in the promises of the international community either. »
That’s why despair is inspiring last-ditch efforts. The people are volunteering for the slaughter, Gédéon Jean declares, for whom this carnage is « symptomatic of the collapse of the Haitian state. »
The convoy left the church on Saturday morning. Before hitting the road, an invigorating prayer session!
« The pastor took the lead, » reports another participant to AyiboPost.
The group attracted some brave souls along the way, explains the man.
They faced the first attack near Lilavois and Rosembert. « Police officers who were accompanying us fled at that moment, » he adds.
The pastor, without a bulletproof vest, seemed to believe he possessed powers to stop the projectiles. « As we advanced under a curtain of bullets, three powerful bursts didn’t hit us because the pastor raised his hands to the sky, » says another participant to AyiboPost.
The group quickly found itself surrounded by heavily armed bandits. « The criminals targeted us immediately, » says the first man. « I personally saw three believers dead and a motorcycle overturned by the sustained gunfire. »
This recent massacre occurred following the release of a note from the Ministry of Justice and Public Security (MJSP), led by writer Emmelie Prophète, that « calls to action, » according to Gédéon Jean.
Just as in its notes from March 6 and 8, 2023, the MJSP reminded the population of its « duty to resist, that reporting criminals is a civic duty as outlined in Article 52-1 of the current constitution of the Republic, which concerns the citizen’s obligations towards the State and the Homeland.”
The carnage at Canaan is also set against a backdrop of an imminent military intervention by Kenya in Haiti.
A delegation from this African country was recently in Haiti to assess the situation. After their arrival, its members went to the United States Embassy, as observed by an AyiboPost photojournalist.
It’s not clear whether the Kenyans were accommodated by the diplomatic representation or if it was a meeting regarding insecurity in Haiti. AyiboPost has reached out to the embassy. This article will be updated if they respond.
On August 23, 2023, the « de facto » Prime Minister Ariel Henry had a « working day with the Kenyan delegation on the support that will be provided to strengthen the PNH and adapt it to the new forms of crime prevailing in the country, » according to a press release issued on the same day by the Ministry of Culture and Communication, led by writer Emmelie Prophète.
The parameters and details of the Kenyan intervention have not yet been communicated by the authorities.
The revolt of Pastor Marco’s faithful followers came in the wake of the launch of the movement called « Bwa Kale » on April 24, 2023. At least 53 alleged gang members have been executed by the population since then, according to a « non-exhaustive » report from the CARDH released on Wednesday, August 23. With that, 747 unarmed citizens have been killed by the gangs between January and the end of this month, according to the human rights organization.
At Pastor Marco’s « Église Évangelique Piscine de Bethesda, » a mixture of despair, rage, and devastation can be seen on the faces of the survivors in the afternoon of August 26.
Usually, the Canaan gang members burn the corpses, which makes any attempt at a death toll complicated.
« When the pastor fled, many people couldn’t follow him, » testifies Sister Beatrice. « [Some took refuge in strangers’ homes, but] three-quarters of the church remained in the area. »
© Cover Image: Worshipers at the « Église Évangelique Piscine de Bethesda » look tired in the temple enclosure in Carradeux. | © Jean Feguens Regala/AyiboPost
The institution is called the « Église Évangelique Piscine de Bethesda, » not « Jésus, Chérubin, Gabriel. » The article has been updated. 9:35 AM on August 28, 2023.
English translation by Sarah Jean.
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