the case of the 33 Haitian kids

The case of the 10 American baptist missionaries who were arrested taking 33 Haitian kids across the border without the proper papers fascinates me.

On the one hand, they may have been trying to do something good, as they claim. On the other, they may be just the kind of sinister group that often gets overlooked when it comes to organized crime.

Christian groups have been accused of exploiting the people of weak nations before, and just because they are Christian doesn’t mean they should be given a carte blanche to do what they like in a foreign country. I’ve always had a beef with missionaries in Haiti, because they preach religion and give bibles, but tend to ignore that the people really need food, jobs and better infrastructure. God is nice, but it doesn’t really get you anywhere. (Disclaimer: I’m an atheist).

Now, did these 10 baptists have sinister intentions with the Haitian kids they took away from misery? At first glance, it doesn’t seem so. They claim they were going to try and reach relatives once the kids were in the Dominican Republic. I think it would be the human thing to do to believe them.

But the authorities, in my opinion, still did the right thing. This group could easily have been planning to sell the kids off in the DR; even if their intentions were good, they could still have fallen prey to the numerous con artists that appear on mission doorsteps with fake IDs and claim to be long-lost relatives. Lacking proper security, too, the mission could be raided by armed members of crime groups in the DR who deal in trafficking of children. (IMagine you’re a gangster, you hear that 33 kids have just been brought into the country, with no guards or paperwork – it’s easy pickings.)

Even if you don’t trust the Haitian government to do the right thing in a situation like this earthquake, you have to respect their rules, and calls from the international community to leave kids where they are.

One thing strikes me as particularly odd in the case; the woman in charge of the Baptist group, Laura Silsby, told The Associated Press that she had not been following news reports while in Haiti.

If she had, she would have known that the International Organzation for Migration was already warning of cases in which Haitian parents had given their children to known traffickers in exchange for financial assistance. She would have known about the government’s fears of trafficking in these chaotic times. She would have known, as she put it, “exactly what we are trying to combat.”

If she was trying to combat human trafficking, wouldn’t it have been better to be abreast of the situation, so as to know what the rules are at this specific moment in time? That alone gives me reason to believe that although she is not necessarily guilty of a horrific crime, she is guilty of not being qualified to take 33 children across any international border.

I wish the Haitian kids, the baptists and the Haitian courts the best of luck in figuring this case out. I really hope the baptists didn’t have sinister plans; that would just be very sad news indeed.