The headlines read: “Americans Held Taking Children from Haiti.” It then goes on to report that a group of 10 Baptists mostly from Idaho, but also from Texas and Kansas formed the “Haitian Orphan Rescue Mission” in order to go into Haiti, “scoop up 100 orphans” out of the wreckage of Haiti and ultimately transport them to an orphanage they were “planning” to build in the Dominican Republic. The 33 children they were in “possession” of ranged in age from 2 months to 12 years old.
As of Sunday, the Baptists were being held in Port-au-Prince by Haitian officials for attempting to smuggle the children across the border from Haiti to the Dominican Republic without proper Haitian documentation. They claim they were assisted by a well-known Haitian Pastor, Jean Sanbil, of the Sharing Jesus Ministries.
They will appear before a judicial official on Monday. Haitian Social Affairs Minister Yves Cristallin reported that the group was suspected of taking part in an illegal adoption scheme, which the group categorically denies.
Ok, those are the primary facts before we get into why this mission of mercy was so wrong on so many levels. And before you start screaming about the glory of God and the righteousness in his name’s sake, hear me out.
In my honest opinion, the not-so-well-thought-out plan these pious lambs of Christ hatched in the meeting room of some church after a particularly moving service took on a life of its own. It was naive and misguided at best, ignorant and arrogant at worst.
What I feel is more at work here than God’s hand taking over and Jesus driving the bus of salvation for the poor unfortunate homeless children of Haiti is yet another spectacle of American arrogance that has grown to unmanageable proportions these past few decades. This particular group of Baptists were chosen by their congregations to go to a country they most likely deemed not capable of taking care of their own misplaced children and show them how it’s done. I believe this elitist perception of an inept Haiti took hold in their minds long before the earthquake ever hit and that the earthquake just confirmed their suspicions and gave them the opportunity to spring into action.
I see this as a calling they got from pastors like Pat Robertson who have no qualms about injecting their own prejudices into their sermons and serving them up as fodder for an over-eager flock to go over there and show them how much better the Americans can do righteous. I believe this kind of thinking is passed from generation to generation where white Christians believe they are better than those living in third world countries and without them (the white Christians) the world would be a savage place to live. History in our own country as it pertains to the Native Americans and other minorities can attest to this.
I can only assume that this group of Baptists from America had the idea that since the country was in ruins, no one would notice them taking a chosen few of the children out of the mess and whisking them away to another country for their own good, that they somehow had perhaps not a legal right, but a moral obligation to do what they did. How can you fault them? How can I sit here and condemn them for their selfless actions?
The husband of one of the group members, when asked to comment, said this: [The children] “were going to get the medical attention they needed. They were going to get the clothes and the food and the love (emphasis added) they need to be healthy and to start recovering from the tragedy that just happened.” Did these folks think just once that maybe, just maybe, those kids didn’t want to be helped in a way that would take them from their homeland?
My guess is that these children, born in Haiti, wanted to stay in Haiti, even if it meant sleeping on a dirt floor in their impoverished family’s government-issued tent. That as long as they shared a plate of rice and some water with loving family or fellow countrymen, they somehow would be ok and would make it through this horrible ordeal, a little shaken, but still able to face another day in the place they were born. What arrogance to believe that the children’s only hope is for you to show them what a good life really is.
The very fact that these misguided Christians were planning on using money to build an orphanage in the Dominican Republic says volumes about their ignorance when it comes to Haitian affairs. The Dominicans do not like the Haitians, maybe not the children per se, but there is a long-standing feud between the two countries. The Dominicans do not see Haitians as equals. They look down on Haitians and the Haitians, rightfully so, are envious of their island neighbors. How do you tell a young Haitian child that they are going to live in the country their parents may have spoken of in unfavorable terms?
Yes, the Dominican Republic, the country that Americans have poured their retirement money into to live out their lives in paradise, just a hop, skip and a jump from one of the poorest countries on the face of the earth. Sure, take them there, don’t even think about setting up an orphanage in the country those children were born in and have familial ties to. The audacity is palpable.
Would not the money that was raised to fund this clandestine operation have been better spent on handing it over to the various bona fide relief organizations who are sanctioned by the Haitian government and who know how to prioritize the needs in such a catastrophic situation as Haiti is facing today, instead of taking it upon themselves to go rogue and totally ignore the need for protocol?
Laura Silsby, the group’s spokesperson said this, “In this chaos the government is in right now we were just trying to do the right thing.” I read this to say that this group honestly believed that the Haitian government was in such as mess that they would welcome a group of Americans coming into their country and whisking away a hundred or so of their children to another country, as long as their hearts were in the right place. The arrest of the group at the border proved them wrong, and rightfully so.
Just because a country is impoverished and does not meet the standards of living that Americans set for themselves, doesn’t mean that they necessarily want to be looked down upon and regarded as incapable of taking care of their own. I don’t personally know any Haitians, but I can only believe that they are a proud people and if given the opportunity would rise to the occasion of taking care of their own with proper assistance. And do not construe my ire at this particular group as saying that help in any form, when it goes through the proper channels, is not only welcome but desperately needed by the Haitians.
But when the assistance comes in the form of a group of people who decide that their way is the best way with total disregard for a country’s laws, then they must be held accountable for their actions. These people must not be seen as heroes cum martyrs, but rather overly zealous Christians who got the message wrong when God called on them to lend a helping hand.
If you want to help Haitians, here are some organizations that assure your donations will go directly to the relief efforts in Haiti:
Clinton Bush Haiti Fund
Doctors Without Borders
Partners in Health/Stand With Haiti
And if you want to volunteer your time, I’m sure your offer to help is quite appreciated. But make sure to go through the proper channels when offering and make sure your idea of helping includes following the lead of the organizations that are on the ground. Know and respect the proper protocol for aiding a proud people in their time of need.