By Maria Caspani
(Reuters) - The work of U.S. and Canadian missionaries kidnapped in Haiti over the weekend included helping rebuild homes following an August earthquake on the island, according to their Ohio-based organization that has aid projects all over the world.
Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) said in a statement Tuesday that the 17 captives - among them five children, one just eight months old - had been visiting an orphanage the organization supports when they were kidnapped Saturday outside the capital Port-au-Prince.
CAM added the missionary's work in Haiti included distributing Bibles and Christian literature, feeding the elderly and getting medicine to clinics.
"Their heart-felt desire is to share the love of Jesus," CAM said. "In recent months, they were actively involved in coordinating a rebuilding project for those who lost their homes in the August 2021 earthquake."
The gang that kidnapped the group is asking for $17 million -- or $1 million each -- to release them, Haitian Justice Minister Liszt Quitel told Reuters.
According to its most recent annual report CAM's 2020 revenue was more than $132 million, most from cash and in-kind donations. An audited financial statement that is part of the annual report shows CAM spent nearly all its revenue on aid programs such as supporting school children in Haiti and feeding families in Nicaragua.
CAM ran operations in more than 130 countries and territories in 2020, according to the annual report, providing food, clothes, medicine and other services to over 14 million people.
The organization founded in 1981 "strives to be a trustworthy and efficient channel for Amish, Mennonite, and other conservative Anabaptist groups and individuals to minister to physical and spiritual needs around the world," according to CAM's website.
Anabaptism is a Christian movement dating back to 16th century Europe centered around a literal interpretation of Jesus' teachings and adult baptism.
In Haiti, where CAM has worked for several years, it runs a medical clinic as well as projects providing Haitians with work, according to its website. Another program provides textbooks and other school supplies and meals to more than 9,000 students at 52 schools in Haiti, according to the annual report which states that "a donation of $65 per month enables five students to go to school."
In 2019, it emerged that an employee for the Christian group had molested children while working for the organization in Haiti, and that CAM managers had known for years.
"The fallout from the Haiti abuse case continues to weigh on us," CAM General Director David Troyer wrote in the annual report.
(Reporting by Maria Caspani in New York. Editing by Donna Bryson and Alistair Bell)