Forty Catholic missionaries were killed around the world in 2018, with Africa becoming the new deadliest continent for clergy. Fides News Agency said that the 40 deaths are almost double the 23 number from 2017. While for eight straight years Latin America was the deadliest region for clergy, Africa took over the mantle in 2018. “Many Missionaries have lost their lives during attempted hold-ups and robberies, ferociously committed, in impoverished, degraded social contexts, where violence is the rule of life, the authority of the state was lacking or weakened by corruption and compromises, or where religion is used for other ends,” Fides said.
“Everywhere priests, and laymen share the same daily life as the common people, bringing them the evangelical witness of love and service for all, as a sign of hope and peace, trying to alleviate the suffering of the weak and raising their voices in defence of their trampled rights, denouncing evil and injustice,” it added. “Even in danger of their own safety, at the request of civil authorities or their own superiors, the Missionaries remained at their posts, aware of the risks which they were running, in order to remain true to the duties they bore.”
During 2018, a number of non-clergy Protestant missionaries also died, most notably the 26-year-old Oral Roberts University graduate John Chau. Chau, who wanted to bring the Gospel to isolated tribespeople on North Sentinel Island near India, was killed by arrows on the island in November. Chau’s killing sparked debate on the proper ways of carrying out contemporary missionary work. Pam Arlund, a member of the International Leadership Team at All Nations that trained Chau, said the American was “one of the greatest learners I have had the pleasure of working with. He read a book every three days, reading books that I recommended to him about missions.”
The unrest and clashes in Cameroon meanwhile led to the death of Indiana missionary Charles Wesco in October. Wesco, who had only moved into the region with his family earlier that month, was shot by bullets and died in front of his wife and son. Rebecca Wesco, the missionary’s mother, said that she believes her son is in Heaven. “We don’t have any shadow of a doubt,” the mother said at the time. “He was not perfect, he had sins, but he had asked God to forgive him, and he really truly wanted to love God and wanted to help “those in need.”
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