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June Today in Terrorism

June 27, 1974: Murder of missionaries in Rhodesia

On June 27, 1978 two German Jesuit missionaries, were shot dead in cold blood by ZIPRA terrorists in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)

HARTLEY, RHODESIA – Christian churches have a lot to answer for amidst the decades of abuse they doled out as missionaries: but do their ‘crimes’ deserve cold-blooded murder?

The past few months have been particularly difficult in the nation I love and call home: Canada. An already well-established history of abuse against the original inhabitants – what we call our ‘First Nations’ – has gotten worse with the discovery of mass graves at a so-called residential school in Kamloops (BC). The idea that hundreds of children, already snatched from their families, died and were unceremoniously buried with no kin present is heartrending.

This latest finding adds to a long list of accusations against the Roman Catholic church in Canada, which was one of the custodians of these schools. Demands for apologies and compensation are being heard – again – as we try to understand and account for this sorry part of our collective story.

Who gave YOU the right to take us from what we knew? (Photo: Public Domain)

Of course Canada is not the only nation where churches, often in the form of missionaries, sought to ‘save’ the souls of those they saw as ‘inferior’ (and most definitely did NOT ask to be ‘saved’!). Not surprisingly, the lucky ‘recipients’ were not happy and on occasion lashed out in violent ways.

On this day in 1978

Two German Jesuit missionaries, 48-year old Father Gregor Richert and 68-year old Brother Bernhard Lisson, who had spent six decades in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) between them, were shot dead in cold blood by a small group described as “terrorists”. Armed men had taken the two missionaries from the central mission complex to their quarters before shooting them.

It’s extremely difficult to give an answer to this. I don’t understand it. It is, of course, a very hateful business. There is no reason that makes sense to me.

Monsignor Helmut Reckter, Director of all Catholics in the Sinoia area

The group behind the killings, ZIPRA, the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army, was a Marxist-Leninist bunch fighting for independence from the UK. In the end they got what they wanted, but two German priests ended up dead for what they did. Justifiable deaths in a civil war or terrorist victims?

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By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. and Director of the National Security programme at the University of Ottawa’s Professional Development Institute (PDI). Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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