At Least 7 Christians Killed After Church Group Tries to Confront Haitian Gang

At least seven members of a Haitian church were killed Saturday after their pastor reportedly led a large group of parishioners through a community, armed with machetes, to rid the area of a powerful gang. An unknown number were wounded and others were reportedly kidnapped by the gang. 

Gang members opened fire on a group of people from the Evangelical Church of the Pool of Bethesda in Caradeux, Haiti.  

The attack was filmed in real-time by journalists at the scene. Several people were killed and others injured, Marie Yolène Gilles, director of the human rights group Fondasyon Je Klere, told The Associated Press.

She watched online as hundreds of people from the local church marched through Canaan, a makeshift town on the outskirts of the capital of Port-au-Prince founded by survivors who lost their homes in the devastating 2010 earthquake.

Prior to the massacre, the church’s pastor, Marcorel Zidor, popularly known as Pastor Marco was seen on a livestream of a church service on YouTube telling hundreds of the assembled audience to march against the powerful gang, according to The Christian Post (CP). 

The Canaan area is now controlled by a gang led by a man identified only as “Jeff,” who is believed to be allied with the “5 Seconds” gang.

A video with audio translation into English subtitles was posted to X, formerly known as Twitter, reportedly shows Marco leading his congregation in prayer, asking God for the anointing of biblical King David. 

“May the anointing of David…enter into I can knock Goliath to the ground,” Marco reportedly prayed. 

As the video continues, a reporter walking with the group asks one young woman if she’s scared of all of the sounds of gunfire. 

“What’s on us won’t get hit by bullets!  What’s on us won’t get hit by the clip!” she replied. “Today is the day of revolution! Today we’re not sitting at home anymore. We’ve suffered too much and we’re saying we can’t take it anymore!”

Another video shows Marco’s followers in a parade type of formation with some wearing orange t-shirts and carrying machetes and sticks walking up a city street. Then a third video shared on social media shows gang members constantly firing at the group with automatic weapons. The bodies of what appear to be a man and a woman wearing orange t-shirts lay on the side of the road. 

It wasn’t immediately clear how many people were killed and injured in the attack. Marco was leading the group and when gang members opened fire, he fled the scene on a motorcycle, according to the Haiti Libre

The gang’s leader, who identified himself as Jeff, appeared in a video posted to social media Sunday. He said as the church group approached them, he gave orders for his men to shoot in the air, but he claimed they were fired upon by armed men with the group, The Miami Herald reported. The gang leader also claimed to be holding several church members captive but would release them.

Gangs have grown more powerful since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, and they are estimated to control up to 80% of Port-au-Prince.

Fondasyon Je Klere/Eyes Wide Open Foundation told the Miami Herald that inciting people to take the law into their own hands is a criminal act. 

“Bringing citizens to arm themselves against each other, provoking violence in pastoral speeches, are criminal acts provided for and punished by the Haitian penal code,” the human rights group said in a statement. “Three to 15 years in prison is the penalty provided by the law in this matter. It’s time to enforce the law. Those who by their speech provoked this massacre and the perpetrators of this massacre must answer for their actions.”

On Monday, the director of Haiti’s National Police vowed to hold accountable those who encouraged hundreds of parishioners to fight the gang.  

Police Chief Frantz Elbé said his officers were trying to recover the bodies of those killed.

Police said in a statement that they had tried to convince the religious group to stop their plan “to avoid a carnage by criminals who have an arsenal of war.” Elbé noted that the group had not notified police about the protest as required and that officers were unable to halt the crowd partly because it had split up into two groups.

“Police did everything to stop them,” he said at a news conference, calling the event a “tragedy.”

Tranquil Florant, a 32-year-old homeopathic doctor who is a member of the church, told the AP that the pastor announced plans for the weekend march on Thursday during an all-night prayer.

“This was really a crazy idea,” Florant said, adding that he didn’t participate. “People have to make good judgments.”

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