At least seven members of the Evangelical Church of the Pool of Bethesda in Caradeux, Haiti, were executed while several others were injured or kidnapped on Saturday after their pastor convinced them to protest a heavily armed local gang with just sticks, machetes, and the belief that God would protect them from bullets.
In a livestream of a church service on YouTube held shortly before the massacre with a title that translates to “SATURDAY OF MIRACLES AND HEALING,” the church’s pastor, Marcorel Zidor, popularly known as Pastor Marco, is shown telling hundreds of his members to march against the powerful gang located in a squatter community just outside Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, known as Canaan.
A translated video clip from the service shows Marco leading his members in a prayer where they asked God for the anointing of the biblical King David to go up against the gang which is known to regularly challenge local police, according to Haiti Libre.
“May the anointing of David … enter into me… so I can knock Goliath to the ground,” Marco declared. “These Goliaths must fall.”
A DISTURBING VIDEO | Witness the moment when the Canaan bandits mercilessly fired bullets at Pastor Marco worshipers who fearlessly approached them in Canaan Port-au-Prince. Another sad day in #Haiti ???? , thank you King ???? @DrArielHenry@USEmbassyHaiti the people of Haiti is… pic.twitter.com/XsYJjNMxWM
— Andy Gassant (@andygassant) August 26, 2023
When asked by a local reporter if she was not scared of being hit by bullets during the march against the gang, one church member declared, “What’s on us won’t get hit by bullets! What’s on us won’t get hit by the clip!”
She further noted that they were marching for a revolution because “we’ve suffered too much and we’re saying we can’t take it anymore!”
Video posted on X, formerly known as the platform Twitter, shows the gang members opening fire on the church members with what appears to be the lifeless bodies of a man and woman from the protests at the end of a trail of blood in the unpaved streets of the squatter community.
Marco allegedly abandoned his flock on a motorcycle, Haiti Libre said.
Haitian police have yet to make an official statement on the massacre, but Marie Yolène Gilles of the human rights group Fondasyon Je Klere/Eyes Wide Open Foundation said in a statement to the Miami Herald that the pastor should be prosecuted for advocating violence and endangering his congregants.
“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,” Gilles 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.”
The massacre of the church members comes as Haiti descends further into lawless gang rule just two years after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.
Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement from Geneva earlier this month that conditions in Haiti highlight “the extreme brutality of violence being inflicted on the population and the impact it is having on their human rights.”
She noted that between Aug. 14-15, a local government representative and his wife were allegedly shot and killed at their house in Port-au-Prince.
“The man was apparently targeted in retaliation for his reported support for a local self-defense group set up to confront the gangs,” Shamdasani said.
Hours before they were killed, members of the Grand Ravine gang also reportedly murdered five men and two women from the same family on Aug. 14 by burning them alive inside their home in the Carrefour-Feuilles neighborhood.
“They were also reportedly targeted because of their support for a self-defense group,” Shamdasani added.
The UNHCR representative further noted that because of the growing violence in Haiti, there has been a rise in “popular justice” movements or self-defense groups.
Between April 24 and mid-August, more than 350 people have been lynched by local people and vigilante groups. Some 310 of those lynched have been alleged gang members, while 46 were identified as members of the public. One police officer was killed. Between Jan. 1 and August, at least 2,439 people have been killed in Haiti, 902 injured, and 951 people have been kidnapped, according to the U.N. agency.
As the U.N. Security Council considers a proposal to allow Kenya to lead a 1,000-member multinational contingent of police officers that would help train and assist Haitian police in restoring order to the country, Shamdasani said the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, wants urgent action on the security situation in Haiti.
“Türk, who visited Haiti in February, calls for urgent action to be taken on the U.N. secretary-general’s appeal for a non-United Nations multinational force to support the Haitian police in addressing the grave security situation and restoring the rule of law, in strict compliance with international human rights norms and standards,” Shamdasani said. “The human rights of the Haitian people must be protected and their suffering alleviated.”
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