Sunday, February 7, 2010

Southern US Baptist Leaders Urge Obama to Help Jailed Missionaries in Haiti

By David Waters

Morris Chapman, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee
Three Southern Baptist leaders sent a letter to President Obama Friday urging him to do everything he can to secure release of 10 volunteer missionaries jailed in Haiti on charges of child kidnapping.

"The continued detainment and possible conviction of these Baptist mission volunteers will distract the world's attention and undermine the relief efforts so desperately needed by the Haitian people," Morris Chapman, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee, SBC president Johnny Hunt and former SBC president Frank Page wrote in the letter.

The 10 missionaries returned to jail Friday after a hearing. A judge scheduled three more days of hearings next week, starting Monday, defense attorney Edwin Coq told reporters.

The Baptist leaders said they didn't know all the facts of the case involving the group comprised mainly of members from two Southern Baptist congregations in Idaho. "It is possible that the Baptist mission volunteers currently detained in Haiti have acted with the noblest of intentions in a desperate situation to meet an immediate need. We pray that is the case."

But Chapman shed a bit more light in a commentary in the Baptist Press. He said the ordeal began when Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, co-sponsored a "Haitian Orphan Rescue Mission" with New Life Children's Refuge, a non-profit organization launched by church member Laura Silsby. The group hoped to buy land and build an orphanage for abandoned and impoverished Dominican and Haitian children, Chapman said.

But the Jan. 12 earthquake "prompted the ministry to act immediately" by securing facilities for a temporary orphanage on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. The mission team picked up 33 children with ages ranging from 2 to 12 in Port-au-Prince before being stopped near the border, allegedly lacking proper documentation to remove the children from the country.

"The Haitian government and the international community immediately interpreted their actions in the worst light possible, alleging that they were trafficking in children," Chapman wrote. "As the story has unfolded, it has become more and more apparent that these 10 individuals were driven by the true selflessness of altruism. Moved with compassion, they acted."

Source: WashingtonPost

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