Father Arthur Lewis
In a Rhodesian hospital there is a victim of the terrorist war paralysed from the neck downwards. When he can no longer restrain the tears he cannot wipe his eyes. There are others, in hospitals throughout the country, who have been desperately wounded in the defence of this lovely land or reduced to human wrecks by landmines.
Christians hear much of this “armed struggle” for “liberation”. The reality is a group of black children driving an ox-cart: next moment there is an ear-splitting blast and all that is left is a few arms and legs. Or a white smallholder drives home with his wife and children. A hail of bullets from the bush means the end of a family that has lived and loved together. Or perhaps it is a midnight raid on a lonely, unarmed mission. The staff are left dead, the children abducted to train as “freedom fighters”.
The truth about the “freedom fighters”, lauded by church organisations throughout the world, is that they know nothing about freedom and seldom fight. They hit and run. If the Rhodesian forces pursue them over our borders there is an international outcry, and the dollars and the arms flow in from the member states of the United Nations to the “victims of aggression”.
Courage BLACK AND WHITE
The courage and endurance of our multiracial security forces in tracking this elusive foe, communist trained and armed, is quite astounding. One can only guess the hardships they endure, though we know too well the price that some have paid. The bitterest pill is that the communists (with the aid of Churches and powerful radio-transmitters) have persuaded people overseas and uncounted black Rhodesians that the attacks on soft targets are the work of the Rhodesian forces themselves. Ballistic evidence and established facts are powerless against the world-wide propaganda-machine, secular and ecclesiastical.
The sufferings of the ordinary tribespeople are insufficiently known in Rhodesia and virtually unheard of outside. Burnt, beaten, tortured and raped by terrorists, caught in crossfire between friend and foe, detesting terrorism but paralysed by fear: these people find relief at last in the protected villages and the unhappy abandonment of their traditional lifestyle.
In this sea of troubles some of the bravest men and women are the white farmers and their wives: they fight our battles, produce our food, care for their labour-forces and suffer enormous losses of cattle – stolen, maimed, hamstrung or slaughtered by terrorists. If you want to find faith and confidence go to the farms. One mother fought off terrorists, with her 13-year-old son re-Ioading for her, till she could fight no more. Putting her arms round her two children she said: “We are all going to die tonight, but we must be very brave. No tears.” The three survived.
Seldom has a small country, whose ordinary people want only to live in peace with each other, been so universally, so unjustly and so viciously besieged.
The fruits of communism. On July 15, 1977, a group of terrorists entered a kraal in the Rushinga area, East of Mt. Darwin. An entire family – 23 men, women, children and babies – were first beaten, and then herded into a hut which was subsequently set on fire. There were no survivors.
Why Rhodesia fights
Let it be said at once that even if we wanted to hand over to a “transitional government” the internecine factions struggling for power (and loot) are not capable of forming one. None has a policy. They cannot agree: and nothing – least of all UNO – will persuade them to stop their attacks while outsiders encourage, finance and arm them. Terrorism has become a way of life: the new savagery. An American visitor to Mozambique wrote of the “bizarre spectacle of a time machine running in reverse: an African country inexorably reverting to the bush.” ‘When the Portuguese fled Mozambique there was only one faction to take over. Rhodesia’s position, if we gave in, would not be Mozambique’s but that of Angola, once the gem of Africa. In Angola there can be no ordinary tyranny. The factions fight an endless war of attrition leading (with sophisticated weaponry) to something darker than the Dark Ages and worse than the primeval jungle. This has no attraction for Rhodesians, who together have built a modern state in what was a primitive wilderness. Too fresh in our minds is the fact that from the Portuguese territories 600 000 fled as refugees, leaving their possessions, their lives’ work and their dead.
It must not, of course, be inferred that there are no responsible black politicians in Rhodesia. The problem is that Britain and UNO are not interested.
What Choice then, but to fight back?
Partly, of course, it is a fight for survival: and we are surviving remarkably well. Normality reigns over much of the country. Family life, albeit disrupted, continues. Parliamentary government goes on. In many places the churches are full. Cultural life and sport still flourish. Industries and commerce battle but prosper. The streets of our towns and cities are thronged with people and often crowded with traffic. Some of the holiday resorts are well frequented, and people know how to enjoy themselves. Here in the heart of Africa we have a semi-Christian, free enterprise society deriving from an older West. It is a society whose sturdiness and resilience makes today’s West look sick; and it belongs to all our peoples. We are even managing to press on with social reforms, though external pressures make this ever more difficult – each advance being matched by a new turn of the sanctions screw.
Unite FOR A CHRISTIAN FUTURE
But this is only part of the truth. Deep in our hearts we know that we belong to the greatest of civilisations, built over the centuries on the Christian Faith which in Africa millions of black people have gladly accepted. If Christendom has forgotten its calling Southern Africa has not, Values and standards of integrity which are laughed at in Britain and America still count here, though the battle against their erosion knows no respite. Nor is this all. “Here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come”, We are free to preach and to practise the Everlasting Gospel on which man’s eternal salvation depends. Many Churches are sick with the “social gospel” of the Marxist fellow-travellers. But the Spirit is at work both within the Churches and outside them.
The struggle essentially has nothing to do with white and black. Left alone, these have agreed in the past and can agree in the future. We shall not be left alone: but such an agreement must now be our all-out effort.
The Russians would overthrow us by weapons, placed in other people’s hands. The American and British Governments would talk us over the precipice, backing their talk with the most venomous campaign of international persecution in history – but with nothing which calls for a milligramme of courage. The object in both cases is identical: a black government – as distinct from the multiracial best-man government for which we work and pray – that must inevitably fall under Russian Marxist domination. The prize is our minerals and strategic importance: people do not matter.
“Seldom has a small country, whose ordinary people want only to live in peace with each other, been so universally, so unjustly and so viciously besieged.”
There is no merely political answer, though statesmanship has its necessary place in gaining time and choosing lesser evils. But Christianity has three definite things to say:
(1) We must find a pathway through the smokescreen of falsehood to the true issue. Marxism and materialism are both evil: our struggle must be for the freest practicable society in which the Gospel can be taught and lived. And it must be no no-win war.
(2) We are to repent of our sins, not our virtues. We are NOT going to repent of the colour of our skins or our civilised achievement. Christians ask forgiveness. They do not wallow in contrived guilt-complexes.
(3) Repent we must, and turn to God. The stirrings of a true religious revival are already evident. If – and only if – we turn to Him can we confidently expect His intervention. The Lord can save by many or by few. Neither Kissinger nor Geneva brought us down, and it is not beyond the wit of God to find more immediate diversions to occupy the Kremlin, Dr Owen and Mr Carter.
The Rhodesia Christian group is a religious body which cannot prescribe political solutions. But our President has asked for prayer for guidance as we go forward to reach an internal agreement which will enable reasonable Rhodesians of all races to present a united front. This prayer we must earnestly offer – and back it with action.
“Here in the heart of Africa … is a society whose sturdiness and resilience makes a shining example
to the rest of the world.”
A.R. Lewis, Chairman
Rhodesia Christian Group
P.O. Box MP 177
The above article has been reproduced from a leaflet I obtained in Rhodesia in 1977.
You can read a short biography of Father Lewis here: TRIBUTE TO REV. ARTHUR LEWIS
It has been brought to my attention that there are one or two websites which are incorrectly citing my site and this page as the website of the Rhodesia Christian Group. Whilst I am always grateful for links pointing to my site, there is no connection between this site and the Rhodesia Christian Group. – CW.