British and Irish missionaries working in Rhodesia will not be taking any extra precautions for their own safety despite the murder last week of two more priests at a mission near the country's border with Botswana.
Fr Peter Geyermann, from West Germany. and Fr Andrew van Arx, a Swiss missionary, were shot dead last Friday night as they slept on the verandah of the Sacred Heart mission at Embakwe, near Plumtree. Their deaths brought the total of missionaries killed in the guerrilla war to 18, all but two of them Catholics.
However this week leading missionary societies from Britain and Ireland described as "very surprisingthe news that the priest in charge of the mission had fired -back at the murderer. It was most unusual for missionaries to carry guns and it was not part of their policy to carry weapons of any sort, they said.
Mr Hugh Kay, the Jesuits' information officer, said that the Jesuits certainly had no weapons. He added that he had visited St Paul's mission in Musami, where seven missionaries were killed last year, and said that he had been "astonished" at the openness there.
"Their attitude is that you just trust in the Lord," he said.
Sr Martha, Sister Superior of the Dominican Sisters said that in their case decisions about security were left entirely to the people on the spot, but she said: -1 wouldn't think there was any chance at all that we would be protecting ourselves with guns."
A spokesman for the Irish province of the Franciscans said that their members were just continuing to operate in the normal way, which did not involve arms.
The strongest words came from Fr Mattheu Ruf, Superior of the Bethlehem Fathers in Greenwich, who said: "It is nonsense to take any guns with you. We were never allowed to have any weapons at all. Our priests are carrying on just as before: every missionary is free to leave Rhodesia if they wish but none have left recently. We know that the people need them there."
Recently Fr Joseph Amstutz, the Superior General of the Bethlehem Fathers, paid tribute to the courage of his priests and called on all parties in Rhodesia to come together to bring peace to the country.