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article imageBaptists who tried to take 'orphans' charged with abduction

By Stephanie Dearing     Feb 4, 2010 in Crime
The ten Americans Baptists who had gone to Haiti in a bid -- they claim -- to rescue Haitian orphans have formally been charged Thursday.
Port-au-Prince, Haiti - The charges of abduction and criminal association came after the Baptists said they were praying to God for a favourable outcome. Edwin Coq, a lawyer for the group claimed all were innocent of the charges except the leader, Laura Silsby. However, he said “I’m trying to get them all free but I don’t yet know what’s going to happen."
The charges stem from the Baptist group's attempt to take 33 Haitian children across the border to the Dominican Republic without proper documentation. At the time, the group claimed all the children were orphans, although it was later discovered that many of the children had parents, and translators for the group say they witnessed the Baptists making arrangements with parents.
Laura Silsby is also facing two law suits back in Idaho -- one for unpaid wages and the other lodged by a law firm seeking to be reimbursed its unpaid fees. Silsby has also been sued four other times in the past three years - again for failure to pay. According to the Idaho Statesman, which had uncovered the background on the Idaho woman, Silsby also has previously repeatedly broken the law. The Idaho Statesman portrays a charismatic woman who was in financial difficulty, yet was a business leader, who had won over her fellow church mates with her "vision" to save Haitian children.
The members of Central Valley Baptist Church, where Silsby and four others were based, had defended the ten Baptists and prayed for them after they were arrested. The congregation is reportedly staying to itself now that charges have officially been laid.
The Baptists are receiving support from Reverend Patrick J. Mahoney, who issued a press release condemning the Haitian government for the charges. He also said that faith leaders were attempting to secure the release of the Baptists. In an open letter to the Haitian Ambassador to the United States, Raymond Joseph, Mahoney wrote "... This group, some of its members, their pastor, the Reverend Clint Henry, and their congregation of origin, the Central Valley Baptist Church of Meridian, Idaho, USA, are personally known to us. They are good people who have no history and no reason to engage in any action that would cause harm to children or their families. We ask the Government of Haiti to immediately release these individuals and drop any charges pending against them, as well as restore the integrity of their reputations by publicly stating such."
The charges were announced by Haiti's Information Minister Marie Laurence Lassegue Thursday afternoon. Coq said if found guilty, each person could face up to 15 years in jail.
After the earthquake, there was a serious rush of people attempting to adopt Haitian orphans. Because of concerns the disaster and the ensuing chaos put children at greater risk of becoming victims of human trafficking, international aid organizations such as Save the Children, World Vision and the British Red Cross lobbying the Haitian government to temporarily stop all new adoptions. Haitian President, René Préval ensured that there were child protection teams posted at Haiti's borders to help prevent trafficking.
Human trafficking in Haiti has been a huge problem. Aid organizations estimate that up to 2,000 child abductions a year took place in the country before the earthquake.
Adoption, according to Baptist professor Russell Moore, is the new way to convert people to a religion. Moore himself published a book advocating the practice, Adopted for Life, calling the adoption of children a "Great Commission priority."
More about Baptists, New life childrens refuge, Human trafficking
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