Robbery, Vandalism, and Fire at House of Hope in Haiti

Robbery, Vandalism, and Fire at House of Hope in Haiti

Two weeks ago, a gang group occupied the residential commune of Carrefour, where our Global Ministries Partner, the Ecumenical Foundation for Peace and Justice (FOPJ, acronym in Creole), and its main educational project, “House of Hope,” is located. The gang took over its facilities, looted everything, and set fire to the administrative building. One of its guards was struck with a projectile in the leg. Its Executive Director, Polycarpe Joseph, can’t yet assess the damage because the gang still occupies the area. 

The presence of violent acts and the occupation of the area happened a month ago. Most of the people in the area had to take refuge elsewhere. Police officers and citizens who live in the area have tried to resist the occupation without results. Polycarpe evacuated all the staff. Only two security guards remained on-site then, but they had orders to evacuate as soon as the bandits infiltrated the area. 

When the area was totally occupied, the entire population had already abandoned the site. Gangs are armed with weapons of war. They burned down schools, churches, and the houses of police officers in the area. If they entered a home and found people, they killed everyone and set the house on fire. That is why our friends there cannot estimate the number of people who have died, been injured, and have disappeared during these last weeks.

The situation in the country has been complex in recent years. Violence has increased, driven by armed groups that now control more than 50% of the territory, as confirmed by social organizations in the country. The most critical situation is in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Armed groups control several popular neighborhoods, often committing murders and kidnappings. 

According to a United Nations report on the situation in Haiti, violence intensified in 2023. The number of murders recorded in the country increased by 21% this year, from 673 in the last quarter of 2022 to 815 between January 1 and March 31. The number of kidnappings rose by 63% in the same period, from 391 to 637. Cases of rape of women and girls are among the main complaints of the organizations heard by Brasil de Fato, a regional news outlet. An April report by Amnesty International indicates that 40% of the country’s population is in a food emergency, corresponding to five million people going hungry. This international organization also reported that the Haitian authorities recorded 1,014 kidnappings between January and June. Read more on the situation in Haiti here.

Our partner, Polycarpe Joseph, initially thought the reason for the violent uprising was a desire to expand the territory. But as the crisis grew, he and the people from the area realized they were under the control of specific groups that had deliberately chosen to transform the country into hell for ulterior motives. Most people think that this violence is to justify an international military occupation. Kenya has offered to lead a multinational force that could “pacify” the country. Haiti has been in a profound social, economic, and political crisis after the assassination of Jovenel Moïse, the President of Haiti. He was assassinated on July 7, 2021. Gangs have been occupying large sectors across the country, and violence has undermined the capability of the interim government of Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

Despite a climate of fear around Carrefour Feuilles, some residents risked seeing the extent of the damage caused by these bandits, including two FOPJ investigators. According to their report, their losses “are inestimable.” Polycarpe said, “The bandits looted everything before setting fire to the administration building. The other building did not suffer much damage, but they looted everything in the cosmetology room. The gangs set fire to the building that housed the electricity and plumbing classes and stole the generator and all the solar panels. After this partial evaluation, the two investigators padlocked the barriers before leaving the space.” 

The Latin America and the Caribbean Office has provided economic resources to address the most urgent needs of 83 families of students and staff from the school. Once our partner shares an estimate of damages and the best time for reconstruction, we will share an update. In the meantime, please keep Polycarpe Joseph, Esther Pierre, the teachers, students, their families, and Haiti in your prayers.