Boston pastor’s family trapped in Haiti amid violence and civil unrest

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Tires are burning following a call for a general strike by several professional associations and businesses to denounce the insecurity in Port-au-Prince on October 18, 2021. | RICHARD PIERRIN/AFP via Getty Images

A pastor from Boston is trying to evacuate his family from Haiti as chaotic civil unrest unravels and the U.S. government has begun transporting American citizens out of the Caribbean nation. 

Pastor Dieufort Fleurissaint has two sisters and about 10 nieces and nephews who have been unable to escape from Haiti amid an increase in violence that has led to thousands being displaced from their homes in recent weeks. 

“No one is safe in Haiti. God is the only protection they have,” he told NBC10 Boston.

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“They’re afraid even just to come to the phone and speak with me. It’s much better for them to send me a text or WhatsApp.”

Fleurissaint, who runs a nonprofit charity that helps Haitians, told the outlet that he has tried for over a year to get his family into the United States through a government program. 

Fleurissaint’s story isn’t unique as the aftermath of a March 8 ​​attack unravels. On that Friday, gangs launched a coordinated, large-scale attack on government buildings in or near downtown Port-au-Prince. 

A source who spoke with ABC News reports that various gangs targeted different buildings, including the Presidential Palace, the Interior Ministry and a police headquarters. This resulted in gangs and police engaging in gun battles, sending civilians fleeing the area. 

The Presidential Palace hasn’t been occupied since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021.

The recent uptick in violence began after armed groups conducted raids on two of the country’s largest prisons, freeing thousands of inmates. Port-au-Prince is under a complete state of emergency. 

“It’s a very sad situation knowing that I can’t do much at this point,” Fleurissaint told NBC 10 Boston. 

Since last July, the U.S. State Department has issued a level 4 travel advisory urging Americans not to travel to Haiti. In early March, the State Department urged Americans in Haiti to depart “as soon as possible by commercial or other privately available transportation options.”

This week, the U.S. government began chartering flights for Americans out of Haiti to neighboring Dominican Republic. State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel said that nearly 1,600 citizens have registered with the State Department seeking information on leaving Haiti.

“Some are interested in exploring departure options. Some just want to stay in touch with the United States of America or the embassy,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “Some want expertise advice on how they may be able to remain safe, and others may not be in a place for safe departure now but may be down the line.”

Amid the chaos, members of a congregation in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania called The Greater Shiloh Church, which has a house of worship in Bresilienne, Haiti, are trying to spread the Gospel and evangelize despite the spiraling turmoil.    

Pastor Joe Isidore is the pastor at the church in Bresilienne. His church is located high in the mountains, far from Port-au-Prince, where the violence is predominantly happening.  

Isidore told WFMZ via phone, “It is not OK anywhere in Haiti.”

“Everybody is careful the way they go around the street, it’s like, OK we don’t know when that is going to spread around to our area,” he added.

Pastor Brandon Sardik, the director of campuses for Greater Shiloh Church, agreed that Haiti is facing “an atrocity [and] tragedy is all over the place.” 

“He has to navigate through checkpoints where there are gang members who won’t allow you to go past the checkpoint unless you pay a certain price,” said Pastor Sardik, who said he communicates with Isidore every day.

Traveling is limited in Haiti and food and clothing are scarce, according to Isidore.

“Everyone, they stay home and, keep watching who’s around in the community,” he said.

Even with the chaos and disastrous conditions, Isidore said he would never abandon his church’s mission.

“He’s very optimistic,” Sardik said. “He is a man of faith, so he believes that good outcomes will come out of spaces like this.”

Nicole VanDyke is a reporter for The Christian Post. 

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