Police Raid South African Church Aiding Refugees

February 05, 2008

A Methodist bishop in Johannesburg, South Africa, is crying foul after police staged a brutal raid on Central Methodist Mission, arresting more than a thousand refugees and damaging property. The raid, which began around 11 p.m. on Jan. 30 and lasted for nearly four hours, caused both physical and psychological trauma, according to Bishop Paul Verryn.


In a Jan. 31 telephone interview from Johannesburg, Verryn told UM News Service that police broke down every door in the church building during a raid that they later labeled a “routine” search for drugs, guns, and illegal immigrants. Central Methodist Mission receives support from the UM Committee on Relief (UMCOR) for its Ray of Hope ministry, which provides shelter, food, clothing, child care, counseling, and employment assistance to refugees. Verryn reported that some 1,200 refugees, who sleep each night at the church, were in the mission when the raid began.


No drugs or guns were found, but the police arrested nearly everyone in the building, including some South Africans, the bishop said. On Jan. 31, some 400 to 500 people were still being detained and charged with loitering. UMCOR continues to support Central Methodist Mission. Donations to the Ray of Hope project can be made through the Advance (# 199456, Zimbabwe Emergency). – Linda Bloom (UMNS)