On a recent ministry trip, while speaking at a conference at a missions station, I met an old friend who had been a pastor at Walvis Bay. He was recovering from having his shoulder shattered by a high velocity bullet. Two months earlier, this man had been attacked by hijackers, who blocked his way and opened fire on him. He did evasive driving while his companions returned fire and they escaped from the trap.
The day after the government released their "statistics" on how crime in South Africa is on the decrease, my motorbike was stolen from behind a locked gate. The previous week I had spoken, along with Mr Kent Durr and Steve Swart, both Members of Parliament, at a Victims Against Crime dinner in Durbanville. That same day, a good friend of ours was murdered in Durbanville.
Reverend Pieter Victor heard his neighbor screaming for help, and rushed around to help. He found three armed men tying up this woman. He intervened and was shot dead by the assailants. Rev. Victor was 68 years old. Peter Victor was the founder of Straatwerkers - a dynamic evangelistic ministry which for the past decades has been mobilizing young people onto the streets of Cape Town, to win prostitutes, pimps, night club customers, and other street people to the Lord.
It is ironic that having survived several decades of ministry in some of the most dangerous parts of our city, that he should be murdered in what we would consider to be a "safe" suburb. Rev. Victor was a courageous and principled man of immense integrity. He frequently had the courage to confront the highest powers in the land with their corruption and he boldly proclaimed the Word of God in some of the most unpromising and difficult situations. He was a very good friend of Frontline Fellowship, and had spoken at several of our courses and seminars. Over the years we had entrusted several of our key people to Rev. Victor for discipleship training on the streets. When a 68 year old pastor can be murdered it hardly seems appropriate that a government can brag of "winning the war against crime".
A shocking report by United Christian Action indicates that the murder rate is even worse than the official statistics have so far admitted. "Murder in South Africa" reveals that barely 6% of all serious crimes in South Africa result in a conviction. It is also calculated that South African convicts have a 94% recidivism rate (that is 94% of all persons released after serving a sentence immediately become involved in crime again).
Last Sunday night I had the opportunity to debate on national television (SATV 1) with, amongst others, Officials of the Ministery of Safety and Security, and Gun Free South Africa. The subject was Crime and Gun Control and the programme was "Let's Talk" - an hour long programme at prime time.
As I pointed out, the greatest threat to life is not from firearm accidents, nor even from crime. In fact not even warfare has been the greatest killer in the last century. The greatest threat to life in the last century has been secular governments which have disarmed the population. Over 160 million people were killed in the 20th Century by secular governments, mostly Communist governments, which had disarmed their population. These were not people killed in warfare, or caught up in the cross fire of conflict. These were disarmed civilians deliberately targeted by their own governments. In 1915 the Ottoman Turkish Government murdered 1,5 million Christian Armenians. The Armenians had first been disarmed by gun control laws.
In the 1920s and 1930s Lenin and Stalin murdered over 36 million mostly Christian peasants in the Soviet Union. Nazi Germany is accredited with 13 million victims. The Nazi Law on Firearms and Ammunition and Weapons Law, March 18, 1938 is remarkably similar to the proposed Firearms Control Act in South Africa.
Under Mao Tse Tung, over 60 million people were murdered by the Communist government in China.
Idi Amin in Uganda slaughtered over 600 000 Christians in the 1970s in Uganda. The Firearms Act of 1970 was used by Amin's dictatorship to disarm the population first.
Pol Pot's holocaust in Cambodia, which slaughtered over 3 million people, was also preceded by gun control.
The Holocaust in Rwanda, which killed over 800 000 Christian Tutsis was similarly preceded by firearm control legislation.
As history testifies, every genocide of the 20th century was preceded by gun control. The greatest threat to life is not crime or warfare but massacres by secular governments, which have disarmed their populations. Criminals prefer unarmed victims and so too do tyrants.
Incredibly the Gun Free SA and ANC spokesmen on the programme spoke of self-defense as "a privilege", not a right! The present Firearms Control Act would give the Minister of Safety and Security sweeping powers for search and seizure - even without a warrant - and arbitrary authority to grant or withdraw licenses at his sole discretion.
The present paranoia against firearms has not been shared throughout most of church history. Christians have always maintained that evil comes from the heart, mind and soul of individuals. A bad workman blames his tools. We cannot blame a cold, metal, inanimate object for the evil that men choose to do. While many men have misused firearms, many others have used firearms to protect the innocent and to prevent evildoers from having their way. Far from Christians in previous centuries having an aversion to firearms, not only were swords and rifles freely brought into many churches, but the pastors were often some of the best shots in town. During the American War of Independence, an enormous amount of pastors served as officers in the Continental Army under General George Washington, fighting for independence.
Pioneer missionary, William Carey, whose landmark book, "An Enquiry into the Obligation of Christians", the book which launched the modern missionary movement, listed as essential equipment for any missionary "knives, powder and shot." Mary Slessor, the missionary to Calabar, included Maxim machine guns in her check list to a mission team coming to a very violent, slave trade ravaged area of Nigeria.
Dr. David Livingstone, the pioneer missionary and explorer who first landed in Africa in 1840, was well equipped with some of the most advanced weapons then available, including a six-barreled revolver. On occasion Livingstone was compelled to use his weapons for protection from wild beasts and to persuade slave traders to set their captives free. At one point, when criticised, Livingstone stated: "I love peace as much as any other man, in fact, I go quite beyond you, for I love it so much I would fight for it." Blessed are the peacemakers - not the pacifists. To make peace requires resolution, courage and action.
Bishop McKenzie, of the Church Missionary Society, was involved in several firefights against slave traders in the Shiri Valley (present day Malawi), and set many captives free.
Francis McDougal, the First Bishop of Labuan, reported an attack by pirates in 1862: "My double barreled Torry's breechloader proved a most deadly weapon, for it's true shooting and certainty and rapidity of firing."
Many religious readers today would be shocked and horrified to read such reports in present day missionary newsletters. Perhaps the comfortable and prosperous surroundings that most Christians in the West have enjoyed for so long have blinded us to the harsh realities that most Christians throughout the centuries and in less fortunate parts of the world today, have had to face. An unbiblical pacifism has gripped many Western Christians.
When world famous cricketter turned pioneer missionary, C T Studd, undertook the first baptisms in a river in the Congo, he needed to fight off the crocodiles with a revolver in one hand while baptising the new converts with the other!
David Livingstone was mauled by a lion and endured numerous attacks by slave traders.
Missionaries such as these faced dangers which we can hardly imagine. We should not be too quick to judge and condemn others for doing what the Bible commands them to do, to take reasonable precautions for self-defense and the protection of their families. Yes, the primary weapons of missionaries are the Bible, prayer, faith and persuasion. Just as our primary spiritual food is the Word of God. But that does not stop us planting seeds, harvesting crops, shopping in the market and preparing food. Christians must be balanced, and we need to recognise that sin comes from the heart of man (Mark 7:21-23). There is no point blaming a tool for the evil in man's heart. Pacifism is in defiance of historic church teaching.
The 39 Articles, the foundational Statement of the Church of England, states clearly in Article 37: "It is lawful for Christian men to carry weapons". The Westminster Catechism, considered the finest expression of Biblical teaching, states under the 6th Commandment that the prohibitions against murder requires as our duty "all careful studies, and lawful endeavours, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting, by just defense against violence, protecting and defending the innocent." (Q135).
Under Sins Forbidden, the Westminster Standards includes: "the sins forbidden in the 6th Commandment are: 'all taking away the life of ourselves, or of others, except in the case of public justice, lawful war or necessary defense; the neglecting of the lawful and necessary means of preserving life; and whatever else tends to the destruction of the life of any.'" (Q136). In other words, God's Word forbids any Government restrictions or interference in the right and duty of self defense, it also forbids us neglecting these means for protecting the innocent.
The Common Law has recognised this, including the Magna Carta of 1215 and the English Declaration of Rights of 1689 which were foundational to the United States Bill of Rights. All these recognised the right of all free men to keep and bear weapons for self defence.
As the first President of America, George Washington, declared: "Firearms stand next in importance to the constitution itself. They are the people's liberty teeth and keystone under independence. To secure peace, security and happiness, the rifle and the pistol are equally indispensable. The very atmosphere of firearms everywhere restrains evil interference. They deserve a place of honour with all that is good."
"Like a muddied spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked." Proverbs 24: 26.
"If anyone does not provide for his relatives and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" 1 Timothy 5: 8.
"… he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one." Luke 22: 36.
"If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed." Exodus 22: 2.
The full report, "Murder in South Africa: A comparison of past and present" by Robert McCafferty, is available from United Christian Action. It can also be viewed on the web: www.frontline.org.za
Yours for faith and freedom
Dr Peter Hammond
Frontline Fellowship P.O. Box 74, Newlands, 7725 Cape Town South Africa