An armed gang attacked a seminary in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince on Easter Monday (1st April), forcing staff to hide for six hours while the premises were ransacked.

The gunmen destroyed or stole anything they could find at the Minor Seminary of Saint-Martial – run by the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (the Spiritans) – after overpowering the guards.

Staff members and religious were in the building during the attack but managed to find shelter, according to a statement sent to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) by Father Reynold Joseph, the provincial of the Spiritans.

Father Joseph wrote: “For over six hours the bandits continued to plunder, burn and steal.

“Finally, the religious and the staff members managed to escape.

“Some of them took refuge in the formation house, a 30-minute walk from the seminary, and others in the streets, or in the cathedral, beside the school.”

He added that “there were no physical victims of the attack, but the material damage is considerable…

“Four cars were burned, others were vandalised, the school’s offices were set ablaze – the principal’s office was looted, as was the residence of the community and the school itself”, with items such as “refrigerators, solar panels, batteries, a water purification system, mattresses and IT equipment” being stolen.

Father Joseph explained that the Spiritan library, part of the “national heritage”, was left untouched – but he expressed fears that the gang might return to cause more damage.

He said: “It is likely that there will be more intrusions in the next hours or days unless the school is somehow protected.

“We are devastated and remain very concerned with the continued worsening of the situation in our country.”

He concluded: “We appreciate your fraternal support through thoughts and prayers.”

Local contacts have told ACN about their concerns regarding the increasingly volatile security situation in Haiti after armed gangs took control of most of Port-au-Prince.

The Church has also been affected by the violence – despite its efforts to provide essential services for those in need –, with a number of priests and religious kidnapped since the beginning of the year.

Pope Francis also expressed concern for Haiti during his Easter Sunday message, calling for “international solidarity” with the Caribbean nation.

ACN’s help in Haiti includes Mass stipends for priests, support for seminarians and aid for religious Sisters.