A prayer for Florence

From "Yes", the CMS Magazine, July-September 1998 edition.

For most of the readers of this magazine, the relative safety and predictability of life in the United Kingdom (except for Northern Ireland) does not engender prayers of liberation or pleas to God for safety through the night watches. But throughout the ages, and in much of today’s world, the likelihood of violence, abduction or death without any warning, has been an ever present pattern. An example is the following.

On 8th April this year, armed Ugandan rebels attacked three villages north of Kasese in south-west Uganda. Twenty people were killed and sixteen abducted. Among those abducted was Florence Kaheru, a laboratory assistant at the Church of Uganda clinic at one of the villages, Rwensande. The clinic at Rwensande is one of eight supervised by Dr. Simon Challand, a CMS mission partner.

According to reports, the rebels forced Florence to open the clinic’s drug store. When they fled, the took her with them into the mountains. Word from the region suggests that Florence was taken to the rebels’ base to become the possession of one of the rebel commanders. Perhaps only her medical skills and her youth are keeping her alive.

Florence started work at Rwensande in early 1997 after qualifying in Kampala as a laboratory technician. When she was interviewed for the post, one of the panel members was the Director of Education of he local Anglican diocese. "I asked Florence why she wanted to work in a church clinic where the benefits could not compare with those of government establishments", Jane Janet Muhindo recalls. "Florence replied that although the place was remote she felt called to serve the people there, particularly as no one else would offer." The foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains in south-west Uganda are an idyllic setting. But, as night falls, this part of Uganda takes on a sinister aspect. Since 1996 the mountains near the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo have sheltered a particularly malevolent band of rebels called the Allied Democratic Front.

The ADF is supported by the Sudanese government. It is made up of disaffected Ugandan Muslims, former Hutu militia from Rwanda, remnants of the defeated Zairean army and outlaws. Despite its high-sounding title the ADF is little more than a collection of marauding gangsters. Their only purpose seems to be to spread terror. This they do too well - hospitals, clinics and schools are favoured targets. In another recent attack, more than fifty students at a boarding school were burned alive and eighty students abducted. The rebels use the abducted youth as shields. They become the first targets if the Ugandan army takes action.

Abducted children are trained to fight, cook, or tend the sick and wounded. Girls become targets of the rebels’ lust. Few of the abducted escape. Please remember Florence Kaheru and the abducted of this world in your requests to the Lord of all. May God free these captives and bring justice and peace to their troubled lands.

John A. Evenson

St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 30th August 1998