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Shooting Back By: Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Charl van Wyk, a full time Christian missionary and assistant director of Frontline Fellowship – an evangelical missionary outreach group that focuses on resistant or neglected areas and groups in Southern Africa. He is also an associate missionary of In Touch Mission International, based in Tempe, AZ.

Charl van Wyk was an ordinary Christian man until the day he was called upon to be extraordinary. The date was July 25, 1993 and the event became known as the St. James Massacre. Mr. van Wyk was catapulted to the media's attention by shooting back at the terrorists who attacked the innocent congregation. He is the author of a new book which discusses those events: Shooting Back: The Right and Duty of Self-Defence. He will be visiting the U.S. in May 2007 and may be contacted for speaking engagements at itmi@intouchmission.org.

Preview Image
Charl van Wyk (left) discussing a beekeeping course as an evangelistic
outreach to the terrorists who attacked his Church.  On the right is Letlapa Mphahlele, the commander of the terrorists who ordered the attack.
FP: Charl van Wyk, welcome to Frontpage Interview.


Wyk: Thank you for the opportunity to tell my story.  I hope it brings a ray of light to some who might be going through what I experienced but maybe in a less traumatic sense.  


FP: Tell us what happened at the St. James Massacre.


Wyk: It was a typical winter’s evening in Cape Town, dark and dismal. The St. James Church was not as full as it usually was. There were slightly less than the approximately 1500 worshippers it normally held, which was probably due to the cold and rain. 


The Reverend Ross Anderson opened the service after the choruses and first hymn had been sung. Two young members of the congregation stood up and ministered to us in song. I was totally captivated by their lovely voices, when a scuffle at the front door, to the left of the stage, drew our attention.


I ignored the noise and wished that people would be more considerate when entering during the service. Why couldn’t they wait until the song item was over?


When I saw a man with a rifle standing in the doorway, I thought, “I wonder if this is the play that is to be presented to the young people tonight?”


The chaotic scene that was unfolding was no play; it was serious and incredibly real. Grenades were exploding in flashes of light. Pews shattered under the blasts, sending splinters flying through the air. An automatic assault rifle was being fired and was fast ripping the pews — and whoever, whatever was in its trajectory — to pieces. We were being attacked.


Instinctively, I knelt down behind the bench in front of me and pulled out my .38 Special snub-nosed revolver, which I always carried with me. 


The congregation had thrown themselves down — in order to protect themselves as far as possible from the deluge of flying bullets and shrapnel. By God’s grace, the view of the terrorists from my seat, fourth row from the back of the church, was perfect. The building was built like a cinema with the floor sloping towards the stage in front. So without any hesitation, I knelt and aimed, firing two shots at the attackers. This appeared ineffective, as my position was too far from my targets to take precise aim with a snub-nosed revolver. I had to get closer to the terrorists.


So I started moving to the end of the pew on my haunches and leopard crawled the rest of the way when I realised that my position was too high up. The only way I could stop their vicious attack, was to try and move in behind them and then shoot them in the back at close range.


I sprinted to the back door of the church, pushing a lady out of the way, so that I could kick the door open and not be hindered as I sought to get behind the gunmen to neutralise their attack.


As I desperately rounded the corner of the building, outside in the parking area, I saw a man standing next to what was the “getaway” car. Resting on his hip was his automatic rifle. The man was looking in the direction of the door through which they had launched their attack. 


I stepped back behind the corner of the wall and prepared to blast the last of my firepower. I strode out in full view of the terrorist and shot my last three rounds. By this time, the others were already in the car. My target jumped into the vehicle and the driver sped away immediately, leaving behind the acrid stench of burning tyres and exhaust fumes.


I remember thinking, “Lord why haven’t I got more ammunition?”


I ran across the road to the house of a neighbour and jumped over the fence. Knocking on the door I shouted,


“Call the police, there’s been an attack!”    


FP: Did you strike any of the terrorists with your shots? Years later now, do you believe your action was justified? 


Wyk: I shot Khaya Makoma, one of the attackers. I firmly believe that the most Biblical action I could take at that time was to protect the lives of my brothers and sisters in Christ from the onslaught.  In fact, if I did not try to protect them when I had the opportunity to do so, I would have broken the commands of Scripture.


FP: Can you tell us some verses in Scripture that you believe legitimize your actions and justify Christians in protecting themselves?


Wyk: In Proverbs 25:26 we read: “A righteous man who falters before the wicked is like a murky spring and a polluted well.” Certainly, I would be faltering before the wicked if I chose to be unarmed and unable to resist an assailant who threatened the lives of God's people.


Paul wrote in a letter to Timothy, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially of those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8) 


 “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbour as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27)         


FP: Tell us who Letlapa Mphahlele is. What were the circumstances surrounding your presence at his homecoming ceremony? What has been your relationship with him?


Wyk: I met Letlapa when I tried to make an appointment with Khaya Makoma, one of the attackers that I had shot during the attack.


I phoned the jail that Khaya was in to ask for a meeting with him so that I could share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with him.  Shortly thereafter I received an invitation from Letlapa, the commanding officer of the Azanian Peoples Liberation Army (APLA) to meet with him. He ordered the attack.


We met and he introduced me to Khaya when we visited him in jail together.  Letlapa and I met on occasion for a television interview, breakfast, press interview etc 


I was invited to his home coming celebrations which marked his return home after having been in exile.  The celebration also included the South African courts having withdrawn all charges against him for the terrorist attacks he ordered.


FP: Why did you want to meet Khaya Makoma? Tell us the philosophy of reaching out to someone who tried to harm you and your congregation.


Wyk: There is hope for terrorists, but only through the Grace of Jesus Christ.  I wanted to share, with Khaya, the great Gospel of Jesus Christ, how He had died on the cross and shed His blood for the cleansing of sins.


I am no more righteous or better than Khaya and so as two desperately wicked sinners before a holy, just and gracious God, we sat and spoke about Jesus Christ and the Way of Salvation.


Khaya had been influenced by liberation theology, i.e. the idea that the Gospel pertains to a political salvation, and he is an animist, i.e. someone who worships his ancestors.  He believes that we all worship the same God, and that he can communicate with God through his ancestors and I, through Jesus Christ.      


FP: Why did Letlapa Mphahlele order the attack on your Church?


Wyk: Letlapa and I were being interviewed at the Cape Town Airport by a newspaper reporter.  The reporter asked Letlapa why, considering the fact that negotiations were well under way for a new political dispensation, he still gave the command to attack the church.  Letlapa responded:  "This attack was an act of terrorism in the true sense of the word....what terrorism is all about.  We did it to instill fear in the Whites in South Africa."


FP: So overall, what final message would you have, after your experience, and in terms of who you are, in terms of the terror war we face today?


Wyk: Even innocent people need to be prepared to deal with terrorists in a confrontational fashion, that is to use lethal force to protect themselves in the event of an attack. This may appear to be an extreme position, but we as Christians have not only a right but also a duty to protect the innocent and to look after those whom God has entrusted to us. 


People also need to be prepared to deal with terrorism psychologically.  It is so much easier just to give up and give into the demands of those who are terrorizing others, but such compromise is not the way of the faithful servant of Jesus Christ.  We must stand up for what we believe in, even to death.  And we must not allow people of other religions and political persuasions to enforce their ungodly views upon us in whatever manner they deem fit. 


We have found in South Africa that political correctness and making excuses for the terrorists is no help to the innocent citizen.  Terrorists need to be dealt with extremely severely by law.  Giving into their demands just makes them move the goal posts and find another reason to bring pressure on the government of the country they are attacking.


Education is a must - forewarned is forearmed - there is a battle of worldviews going on in the world and people need to understand the threat and how they can make a difference.


The bottom line, however, is where you will spend eternity.   


FP: Charl van Wyk thank you for joining us today. It was an honor to speak with you.


Wyk: The pleasure is all mine. Thank you for the opportunity.  Armed citizens save lives. 

Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Russian, U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He is the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union and is the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. His new book is United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at jglazov@rogers.com.

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