Survivor of 1993 Church Massacre: ‘By God’s Grace I Managed To Return Fire’

St. James Church Massacre (Guy Tillim / AFP / Getty)
Guy Tillim / AFP / Getty

On June 18, Breitbart News reached out to missionary and author Charl van Wyk for comment on the heinous attack on Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Van Wyk survived a church massacre in South Africa in 1993 by returning fire on the attacker. He has since become an advocate for gun rights.

Regarding Charleston, van Wyk said:

I had just arrived home after ministering in Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), when the very next day, news of the church attack on unsuspecting Christians in Charleston, SC was released. My heart really goes out to the families of those who are feeling the pain of having lost loved ones through this senseless attack.

He then reflected on how the news of the Charleston attack brought back memories of the attack he had endured 22 years ago:

This brought back memories of corpses, the cruelty, and the suffering experienced when the murder of innocent victims took place at the St James church massacre of 25 July 1993. By God’s Grace I managed to return fire at the terrorist attackers and they fled the scene. 11 Parishioners were killed and over 50 injured in the attack with automatic rifles and hand grenades.

Van Wyk then talked about the dangers faced by Christians in Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo:

Congo is a gun free zone and colleagues of my pastor friends have been buried alive by rebel soldiers. This is highly unlikely to have occurred if the Congolese Christians were armed and ready when the rebel soldiers confronted their pastors.

Boko Haram fighters have shot and burned to death about 90 civilians and wounded 500 in attacks in Cameroon earlier this year. Private gun ownership in Cameroon is extremely low and thus again the bad guys can go about their business with impunity.

The only person who can stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun. Unarmed victims are pretty helpless.

At present I’m working to develop a curriculum for training African churches to defend themselves against Islamic and Communist aggression.

He then referenced the fact that South Carolina forbids guns in churches, and responded to calls for gun control that have arisen over the past two days:

Firearms surely make it easier to kill people, but firearms also make it easier for people to defend themselves. Removing all firearms from society risks leaving potential victims defenseless.

Why would those in authority rather see law-abiding, disarmed citizens die, than risk armed citizens harming a criminal? History and common sense prove that gun-free areas are dangerous.

He added the following recollection about meeting the leader of the terrorist group that attacked the church, years later, after members of the group were granted amnesty by South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission:

The terrorist commander, who gave the command for the St. James church massacre, had this to say when he introduced me to a former colleague: “There we thought that the church was a gun free zone, but boy did he (Charl) have a surprise for us!”

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