ANNANDALE, Va., – Charl van Wyk was faced with a terrifying situation: terrorists shooting up members of a church and all he had was a handgun. But he returned fire and the terrorists fled.
Now he's warning Americans about the situation that exists for residents in his home of South Africa: Violence so bad families must hide behind burglar bars and a security gate fearing intruders and knowing that there's no right to self-defense.
He says Americans need to be aware of – and protective of – their rights guarded by the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, or they could find themselves in a similar predicament.
At a meeting this week of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, he said South Africa ranks among the highest in the world in terms of rapes and murders, which average around 20,000 annually. Statistics show that only war-torn Colombia has more murders and that South Africa has the highest number of rapes in the world.
This high crime rate has led many South Africans to leave their country and to move abroad.
"Millions of South Africans have left and are leaving South Africa – it is referred to as the 'brain drain' – all races are leaving," Van Wyk told WND.
And South Africa's gun laws make it virtually impossible for a person to legally defend himself or herself with a firearm should someone break into their home.
He said South African law does not recognize the common-law "castle doctrine" that allows for justifiable homicide should an attacker break into someone's home with the intent of doing violence to them.
Van Wyk, author of "Shooting Back: The Right and Duty of Self-Defense," published by WND Books, told members of the defense league it took his family several months to acclimate to not constantly have their lives in peril after temporarily moving to the United States last June.
"We had burglar bars on all our windows. We had security gates on every single door," Van Wyk said of his home in South Africa. He said he would grab his gun as a matter of course if he heard noises near his home.
"And about three weeks before I came to America in June of last year somebody broke into my neighbor's house, broke through his security gate and door, came inside and stabbed him in the shoulder," he said.
"And because of all of this my kids have developed a complex; they're traumatized," he said.
He has known violence throughout much of his life – most notably having survived the July 1993 St. James Church Massacre, which he detailed in his talk and in his book.
Terrorists from the radical Azanian People's Liberation Army stormed into Van Wyk's Cape Town, South Africa, church and sprayed a hail of bullets into the pews and threw grenades at the worshipers, killing 11 and wounding 58.
Van Wyk initially thought the terrorists were part of a play, but once he realized what was happening, he reached for his handgun and returned fire, wounding one of the attackers. They fled.
The terrorists were granted amnesty in 1998 for their participation in the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission despite their crimes, which were carried out in the backdrop of a terror campaign aimed at forcing out the white minority government that ran the country at the time of the incident.
And Van Wyk, a Christian missionary, subsequently reached out to the terrorists in the spirit of what he calls Christian forgiveness.
The African National Congress and its allies in the South African Communist Party responded to South Africa's high crime rate by passing the Firearms Control Act, which is being used to disarm the citizens, since coming to power in 1994, according to Van Wyk.
He subsequently has become a major advocate for gun rights, both in South Africa and elsewhere around the world, and is a founding member of Gun Owners of South Africa.