A wave of violence that erupted in Haiti over fuel price increases has left multiple church groups stranded because it is not safe for them to travel.
On Friday, the government announced a drastic increase in gasoline prices. That triggered riots that led to at least three deaths as protesters clashed with police and security guards, Fox News reported.
Although the government rescinded the 38 percent increase in gasoline prices on Saturday, the rioting had not yet abated, and Americans were warned to shelter in place, CNN reported.
“Do not attempt to travel at this time. Avoid protests and any large gathering of people. Do not attempt to drive through roadblocks,” CNN quoted an unnamed State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs official as saying.
“Haiti is not mad at us. The people here are mad at their government,” said Rev. Jason Webb of Mount Olivet Baptist Church in Hartwell, Georgia. Webb led a group of 22 people working in Haiti for the past week, according to WHNS.
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“God did some amazing things through our group,” Webb said, including conducting Vacation Bible School classes for Haitian children and repairing homes.
Webb said he had no idea when the group would return, but said they were safe.
“We’re glad people are sending their prayers to Haiti right now. They need it,” he said.
The nonprofit My Life Speaks has mission teams from Woodland Community Church in Bradenton, Florida, and the Glade Church in Mount Juliet, Tennessee that are stranded in Haiti. The groups have tried to leave, but could not.
“When they got to the main road, that is when they encountered all of the riots,” Jill Kramer of Bradenton told WFLA. Her 15-year-old daughter is on the trip.
“They were on a bus with the owners of the mission, the leaders, other adults, three armed guards and they just kept getting stopped by road blocks and people asking for money and that is when they decided, at that point, it was not worth it,” she said.
“They weren’t government or police,” said Executive Pastor Dewayne McFarlin, according to WLS. “Just people taking advantage of the situation.”
Heather Terwilliger said her 15-year-old daughter Abby was on her first mission trip when the unrest broke out.
“She says, ‘Mom, there is something crazy going on. Tires are being lit on fire in the street,’” Terwilliger said her daughter told her.
Members of the Faith Community Church in Trussville, Alabama, were also impacted by the rioting, forcing the 31 people who made the trip to remain longer than planned, said Pastor Mike Ennis, according to the Trussville Tribune.
“Haiti is in a tough situation. We went to bring hope to an area that has very little hope,” he said. “This validates why we went there in the first place.”
He said the group was safe as it waited for order to be restored in Haiti.
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