By Andrew Ireland
WASHINGTON — He may have been outgunned, but he certainly wasn't ungunned, and his actions, the experts agree, probably saved hundreds, maybe even a thousand lives.
Now St. James Massacre hero Charl van Wyk is reaffirming his belief that there is a biblical obligation for self-defense with a warning to Americans of the perils of gun control.
In a newly released video interview with WND, he recounted the horrific consequences of gun-free zones on his continent.
"In Africa, gun-free zones have always been the most dangerous places to be. Rwanda was a gun-free zone – 800,000 people were murdered there," he said. "In Uganda we had Idi Amin, who was a Muslim, murdering 600,000 Christians and also passed gun-control laws before that. We have 4 million people murdered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, also a gun-free zone."
He emphasized that in gun-free zones in Africa, the rebel soldiers, the police and the army are armed.
"We've had pastors in the Democratic Republic of the Congo being buried alive. And I said to one of the pastors there, 'Why didn't the whole congregation bring out their firearms when the rebels came along and say, 'Go ahead make our day? How can they just walk in and take the pastor?' He said, 'No, we've been completely disarmed. We can't protect ourselves at all.'
He noted that when "both groups that are fighting are armed we call it a war."
"Massacres happen when one group is armed – normally the government – and the rest have absolutely nothing to defend themselves," he said. "That's when genocide takes place. So gun-free zones are the most dangerous place in Africa."
In America, most of the worst shootings have happened where firearms are banned or at least severely restricted. Thirty-two died on the Virginia Tech campus in 2007, 27 at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, 18 at the University of Texas, 13 at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009, the same number at Columbine High in Colorado in 1999 and eight were killed at Red Lake High in Minnesota in 2005.
Van Wyk is warning all Americans "to fight for and keep their rights to bear arms."
"Once this is taken away it's almost impossible to get it back again, so you need to be vigilant," he said.
"We've had a real struggle in Africa with many different countries and the chaos that comes along when people can't defend themselves is absolutely horrific."
His story has been chronicled in the book "Shooting Back: The Right and Duty of Self-Defense" and also a video documentary, the first ever produced by WND Films.
In 1993, with his .38 special revolver,van Wyk shot back at a group of terrorists who later confessed their plan was to kill possibly 1,000 or more worshipers.
The Sunday evening service in Cape Town, South Africa, was under way when the attack happened. Eleven churchgoers were killed and 53 were wounded, but the terrorists who entered with mayhem on their minds quickly fled to a waiting car when van Wyk crouched down behind a pew, took aim and fired.
Since the St. James Massacre, van Wyk has been attacked by armed robbers three times. Each time his firearm has helped to save him. The most recent attack was when he was held by assailants who attempted to hijack his vehicle. When the opportunity arose, he fired on the attackers and drove them away.
"We are on the brink of global change," van Wyk said in an earlier exclusive interview with WND marking the 15-year anniversary of the St. James Massacre. "The United Nations has a disarmament program to remove private firearms from all nations. Hundreds of millions of people throughout the world suffer hideously through political systems, which have imposed a disarmament program based on oppression and lies."
In the years that have passed, van Wyk has been working, through his ministry with Frontline Fellowship, in regions that could be called "war-torn" sections of Africa.
Though van Wyk admits that there are disadvantages to having firearms in a society, he says lawmakers should consider the advantages.
"When last did you hear of a multiple-victim shooting taking place on a firearm range, in a police station or at a gun show, or wherever many firearms are found anywhere in the world? You haven't. That's because criminals prefer unarmed victims, or soft targets," van Wyk says. "No wonder they love gun control – it makes their work so much easier and their working environment much safer."
In Christian circles, van Wyk concludes, there is an additional imperative to be armed for self-defense.
"The Apostle 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,'" noted van Wyk. "Provision includes providing security. In fact, our Lord Jesus taught, 'If you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.'"
Quoting Jesus again, van Wyk added, "'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 neighbor as yourself.' Are we loving our neighbor when we stand by and do nothing when he is being murdered or a woman is being raped?"
On the 20th anniversary of the church attack, he told WND that when the terrorists broke into the church, lobbed grenades and started shooting, for a second he thought it was a play.
"Boy was I wrong!" he said. "I dropped to my knees and drew my .38 special revolver from my ankle holster. Taking aim, I fired two rounds at the attackers. Being in the fourth row from the back of the large sanctuary made accuracy difficult, especially with the revolver’s two-inch barrel, designed for close combat."
He crawled to an aisle and ran for a back door, planning to get behind the attackers and close in. He rounded the building and saw the attackers already fleeing in a getaway car.
He recalled some of the victims he knew.
"Lisa, 16, and Bonnie, 15, were best friends; they were seated with their friend, Richard O'Kill, 17, who risked his life to pull them onto the floor. In protecting them from the rain of bullets, he was shot in the head and died instantly," he said.
"On her Facebook page [later], Lisa posted her thanks to Richard: 'I am so thankful every day for the rest of my life that my wonderful friend Richard gave up his life to save our lives. Love you forever Richard.'"
"Gerard Harker, 21, selflessly hurled his body onto one of the grenades, giving his life and saving many others from death and injury. His younger brother, Wesley, 14, also died."
Van Wyk ultimately was recognized by authorities with a commendation for his actions, and the commander of the church attackers, who were caught, later said, "There we thought that the church was a 'gun free zone,' but boy did he (van Wyk) have a surprise for us!"
See Van Wyk describe his shooting experience and its aftermath:
Andrew Ireland is an intern for WND.