President of the Southern Baptist lobbying wing, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Dr. Richard Land, wrote to both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a letter dated February 5, 2010:
The Haitian government is receiving massive assistance from the United States, from both public and private sources. Our nation’s churches are giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to relief efforts for the people of Haiti. These fine Christian men and women sought to do even more to help alleviate the suffering of some Haitian children. For the Haitian government to respond in this way to the obvious good intentions of these honorable Christians is outrageous.
He goes on to say,
We ask that you do everything in your considerable power to secure the release of these United States citizens. Please know that we are available in any way you might deem appropriate to assist in the immediate release of these men and women and their safe return to the United States.
I am not sure to whom “we” refers. It does not refer to me.
Despite Dr. Land’s insistence, the amount of support being provided by Americans has nil to do with whether the Haitian government should release those held captive. His over the top blathering about money from the US government and US churches is overshadowed by a more pertinent point: the government of Haiti has the same responsibility to protect its children as the government of the United States has to protect Land, et al. While all involved doubt any malicious intent by the Idaho based short term missionaries, the fact remains as it always does that ignorance of the law is no excuse. We now know that the leader of their number, Laura Silsby, was not ignorant of the law at all. It was her willful disobedience that endangered the other nine.
I was on the road and had several conversations with men as a group approached and argued loudly. I asked my translator what was going on? He told me a girl’s parents had been killed during the earthquake. She did not know what to do now; she was only 10 or 11, living on the street and was already a victim of rapists. The woman with her said, “She has been with me two days, but I can not even eat yet. She should go to others.” The girl was not crying, only looking at the ground. It broke my heart.
I quickly went to Dr. Richard [Kowalske] and told him, “We need to do something.” In the meantime, the woman with the girl disappeared into the crowd. After about an hour there was another group and it was loud again. I saw the girl again with another woman. I called Richard and he said, “Bring them here to us and call our translator.” When our translator, John, came, he hugged her, then he asked her many questions to determine whether her parents or any relatives were alive.
Then he put her into the van and said she should wait a minute until we are finished working. In the evening we took the girl to an orphanage run by Haitians in a town where some had relocated after the earthquake.
This is only a single example of children in danger following the earthquake. Had this girl remained on the streets, the chances of her being kidnapped for sex trafficking or forced into prostitution in Haitian alleys would have been high indeed. Instead, she was rescued with the knowledge of the authorities and is being cared for by Haitians at a Haitian orphanage run by some wonderful people.
While I believe the Haitian government acted properly in detaining the Americans, I think it would be a mistake to sentence them beyond the time served at the time of the judge’s decision. The Haitian government needs to make a point that child kidnapping and sex trafficking will not be tolerated and that any suspected incidences will be given the utmost serious prosecution. Yet for all that has happened, no children were taken from the country. Time served and lifelong banishment from the country is more than enough for what these volunteers actually did, though the leader, Laura Silsby, may deserve a more harsh punishment as she reportedly was the sole translator thus able to understand the regulations that were violated.
To give in to any country that whines about a “mistreated” citizen, even if that country is the United States, is to give the impression of treating criminals with kid gloves. For anyone to insinuate that the mere rendering of financial assistance following a disaster excludes a helper nation’s citizens from prosecution by the government of an offended nation is a very strange interpretation of biblical truth, not to mention international law.