Rev. Jean-Nikis Milian felt the cold barrel of a gun against his right ear.
In early April, a Haitian priest and nine others were kidnapped while driving through the outskirts of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince. It was about 7 a.m. and they were on their way to celebrate the founding of a fellow pastor in a nearby parish when 15 to 20 gang members surrounded his car with heavy weapons.
“Go here! Go here!” The gunmen ordered that they pull the car.
It was the 400 Mawzo Gang, the same group that kidnapped 17 missionaries from an American religious organization on October 16 while visiting an orphanage. The group, which includes five children, the youngest at 8 months, is still being held for ransom amid death threats.
Milian spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday about the suffering he and nine of his companions – two nuns, four fellow priests and three relatives – endured at the hands of their captives.
After capturing them on April 11, gunmen blindfolded him and the others, Milian said, and slept until they reached a dilapidated house where they slept on mud floors for several days. Till then, gone.
“We met our needs on the ground,” he recalled. “It was really hard.”
Million and the others were blindfolded for two days and fed only rice and bread, washed down with Coca-Cola.
On the first day, the gang members demanded from the group to hand over the phone numbers of their relatives. The gunmen demanded $1 million per person — the same ransom they paid for the missionaries kidnapped last month.
On the fourth day, the gang released one man and took Milian and the others to a small house. After two weeks, he released three more, but not a million. He and the remaining five detainees were taken to another abandoned house.
“Last week, it was very difficult,” he recalled, adding that he had neither food nor water.
On their way to the third place, the gang leader told them: “Here, we have no food, no hospital, no house. We have nothing, but we have a cemetery.”
Million took it as a death threat and doubled down. “I told them, ‘Keep on praying,'” she said as she told her fellow detainees. “One day we will be free.”
Milian and five others were eventually released after paying an undisclosed ransom amount.
His freedom came through a knock on the door on the 20th day of his captivity. it was 11 o’clock at night
“Arise! Wake up! Wake up! Let’s go!” Milian remembered a member of the gang screaming.
The group, in their frail state, walked several meters to a car that took them to their neighbourhood. Milian spent about a week in the hospital, receiving medication and vitamins as he tried to regain his strength.
Months later, Milian still receives psychological help.
“It’s not easy. Every time we remember something. Every time we think of something. … It’s a part of my life,” he said.
His advice to the families of 16 Americans, a Canadian and his Haitian driver who remains in captivity, is never to lose hope while praying for their release.
“I know the experience is not easy,” he said.
As he spoke, rat-like gunshots were heard from a nearby community controlled by another gang.
“We have to do something. The government has to do something because we can’t live in this situation,” Milian said.