Ten American missionaries accused of kidnapping 33 Haitian children were formally charged with abduction and conspiracy by a Haitian court yesterday. Haiti's ambassador to the United States, Raymond Joseph, says he hopes the move sends the message that Haiti's government is alive and well after the earthquake. From the Christian Science Monitor:
'By this action, I think the Haitian government is sending a clear message to the world that there is a government in place, and that nobody can just take it upon himself or herself to come and do in Haitii whatever they think is good,' Mr. Joseph said by telephone Thursday from Washington, D.C.
Joseph noted that the motives of the group, who were from Idaho and Kansas, will likely be taken into account at a later point in the prosecution. I have no doubt the missionaries believed they were helping. And we now know many of the children have living parents who gave them to the Americans because they were told they would be taken to a school in the Dominican Republic.
But what's bothered me about the case is what can only be the Americans' arrogance, even if it was well-meaning. It's beyond me why they felt they knew how best to help the children -- because they're Americans? because they're Christians? -- without checking with the Haitian government that their actions were legal or better than anything else already in place. And it's just another symbol of the problematic relationship we have with Haiti, that the U.S. feels that whatever it does to Haiti, it must be helping and never hurting.