The tragic dilemma of innocent bystanders
The death toll rises steadily as the bloody civil war in Rhodesia grinds on, with little hope for an early settlement. Last week black nationalist guerrillas attacked a convoy of 50 vehicles at Kariba, 140 miles north of Salisbury. A bus driver and three young white girls died from bullet wounds; 16 other passengers were wounded. Later, guerrillas attacked and set fire to a tiny village in the Zwimba Tribal Trust Land, killing 17 of its 22 black inhabitants.
Among all the innocent bystanders caught in the Rhodesian conflict, however, none face a more agonizing dilemma than Rhodesia's Christian missionaries, who for years have provided education and health care to blacks. Their stations, schools and orphanages have become targets of suspicion for both the army and the nationalist guerrillas. The missions face a problem if they do not report local guerrilla movements to the government and a problem if they do. In the past two years, 25 missionaries have been deported, accused of aiding the rebels. Last month 13 men, women and children at the British Pentecostal mission of Elim, near the Mozambique border, were killed during the most brutal assault on whites since the civil war began.
More than one-third of the 300 missions in rural Rhodesia have closed since 1972. Others survive only as caretaker operations. One undaunted exception is St. Augustine's, a boarding school at Penha-longa, only 20 miles from Elim in an area where the guerrillas now operate with impunity. St. Augustine's, run by Anglican friars of the Community of the Resurrection, was founded in 1891, and is one of the oldest church missions in Rhodesia. In 1939, over white opposition, it established the colony's first secondary school for Africans, and boasts 1,150 students in primary and secondary grades. A number of today's black nationalist leaders are among its graduates.
Last week TIME Johannesburg Bureau Chief William McWhirter visited St. Augustine's. His report:
During the day, life in the mountain valley where the mission's 4,500-acre tract is located still appears as serene as it was in 1964 when the present rector, Father Keble Prosser, first came out from England to run St. Augustine's. The dirt road twists and turns its way up a hillside, into which are built low, one-story brick classroom buildings and dormitories, shaded by long verandas and heavy foliage. St. Augustine's 14th century bell continues to ring out across the valley. As the African sun climbs through the mist to strike the treetops, the hill rings too with the sound of children's voices.
But life at St. Augustine's is quickly changing, for the worse. Says Father Prosser: "Until recently we were genuinely a haven of peace. But after Elim, I was approached by a number of our senior African teachers who said they had certain knowledge that St. Augustine's would be next." The rector replaced his last five white teachers with blacks. Reluctantly, he began to spend his nights at the home of a friend in the nearby town of Umtali
- Beaver Shaw
- Nairobi, Kenya
- I an ex member of both 7 and 8 Squadron's of the Rhodesian war spending most of my operational time on Seven Squadron as a K Car gunner. I was credited for shooting down a fixed wing aircraft from a K Car on the 9 August 1979. This blog is from articles for research on a book which I HAVE HANDED THIS MANUSCRIPT OVER TO MIMI CAWOOD WHO WILL BE HANDLING THE PUBLICATION OF THE BOOK OF WHICH THERE WILL BE VERY LIMITED COPIES AVAILABLE Contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org The latest news is that the Editing is now done and we can expect to start sales and deliveries by the end of April 2011
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