The tragedy of the Haitian earthquake has swept the globe drawing the entire civilized world into a giant wave of compassion and support. Before the quake, Haiti was a nation racked with poverty and rife with corruption. Since the quake, poverty has been replaced by destitution and corruption has morphed into anarchy. The world is reaching out but a lack of infrastructure and the complete collapse of the Haitian government have relief agencies frustrated. Even the awesome might of the United States military has not been enough to end the apocalyptic scale suffering of the people.
One of the chilling byproducts of the death and destruction in Haiti are scores of children, many now orphaned, wandering through the rubble trying to survive. Some of the children are being watched over by dazed, desperate parents who fear the relief efforts may not arrive in time to prevent their children from starving to death. Some offer their children to strangers hoping they can provide a means of escape from the unbelievably horrible conditions.
Into this nightmare of chaos and confusion come ten middle-class Americans who left the comfort and safety of their homes and their families to try and make a difference. Led by Laura Silsby, who has been described by what may be the understatement of the year by her father, John Sander as "a touch naïve", all ten are being held in a fetid cell by what is left of the Haitian government. All are charged with child abduction and criminal association, charges which carry jail terms of up to 15 years. It is entirely possible that their case won't be heard for three months and then not in front of a jury but in front of a single judge.
The pictures of these missionaries are chilling. They could be your neighbors or the people you see at your children's soccer games. They are not hardened criminals, greedy opportunists, or heartless profiteers seeking to make their fortune by kidnapping and then selling innocent children. They are God-fearing, Christ honoring missionaries following the call of God to bring a message of hope and life to a hopeless situation that is filled with the stench of death.
With the help of her live-in nanny, Charisa Coulter, Laura Silsby organized a non-profit group called New Life Children's Refuge. The group was incorporated last November and a companion organization was planned for the Dominican Republic. According to Fox News, Ms. Silsby and Ms. Coulter described New Life as being, "dedicated to rescuing. Loving, and caring for orphaned, abandoned and impoverished Haitian and Dominican children, demonstrating God's love and helping each child find healing, hope, joy and new life in Christ." That certainly doesn't sound like the vision of a kidnapper or someone intending to engage in child trafficking. Both Silsby and Coulter were in the Dominican Republic and Haiti as recently as last July and again late last year. Working with people they trusted in both countries they laid the groundwork for opening an orphanage. They coordinated their efforts with people they thought were handling the necessary details and providing the documentation they needed to begin their work. The widespread devastation caused by the earthquake motivated them to transform their gradual work into the urgency of a rescue mission.
Should Ms. Silsby and Ms. Coulter have been more cautious? Probably. Should they have checked and double-checked their paperwork to make sure they were operating within Haitian law? Certainly. But do they deserve to sit in a dank prison cell, abandoned by their own country while they wait for a broken, corrupt justice system to decide their fate? Of course, the answer is no. Surely the U.S. State Department has already dispatched envoys to Haiti to demand their release. Surely Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has condemned this action by the Haitian government and has issued a statement demanding they be returned home on the next plane. And can there be any doubt that Jesse Jackson, Jimmy Carter, and former President Bill Clinton are all dusting off their passports, getting ready to hurry down to Haiti to intervene for the sake of justice?
Hardly…. so far State Department deputy spokesman Gordon Duguid has issued a statement saying, "We can confirm that the 10 American citizens remain in custody in Haiti. We continue to provide appropriate consular assistance and to monitor developments in the legal case." In government speak that means the State Department is doing absolutely nothing.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton weighed in this weekend saying, "This is the time to let the Haitian judicial system, such as it is, handle the case." This after the State Department called the Haitian judicial system "unacceptable." They described it as a place where prisoners languish in prisons without trial in often-terrible conditions.
Does anyone doubt that if these middle class citizens were environmentalists from Massachusetts instead of Baptist missionaries from Idaho that all the influence of the U.S. Government would have already been brought to bear? If they were government employees sent to relieve the suffering of the children Jimmy Carter, Jesse Jackson and every major media outlet would already be on the scene. The media would be offering wall-to-wall coverage calling attention to what would be described as a travesty of justice.
No, these ten compassionate, courageous, and caring people are Christians. And since Christianity is neither politically correct nor culturally popular the injustice of their imprisonment will not be pointed out by the media elites or condemned by the State Department. Don't look for rock stars or Hollywood elites to stage a rally to raise funds for their defense. After all, they are Christians, not political activists or anti-establishment zealots.
Pray for them and their families that God will comfort them and return them to their families.