I was in Mozambique. I felt safe.
I was only there for a day–My family and I stayed overnight in a hotel in downtown Maputo, and while there I walked around the city, visited a shopping mall, bought books in two different bookstores, visited a cultural center and saw an art exhibit there, retrieved cash from atms and met with a leader of the Mozambican Writers Association at the association’s headquarters. I want to go back for many reasons, including to see Gustave Eiffel‘s House of Steel.
So, I’m not sure that I can offer much explanation for what happened to Elder Nelson and those with him. I suspect others have much more experience than I. I don’t know where the mission home in Maputo is, nor even what kind of area that it is in.
However, I am fairly sure that the kind of robbery that happened at the mission home is not that unusual. Mozambique is the 6th poorest country in the world and one of many poor countries in the poorest continent in the world. Unlike most western countries, the middle class is small to non-existent, and the gap between the rich and poor is very large.
While there I did see how the rich live. Without exception, homes are in walled enclosures, usually topped with glass and often including small guard houses for security guards.
That doesn’t sound like what I would expect in a mission home, but I also don’t know all the issues that go into selecting a mission home. Security is probably one issue, and mission homes in many countries are almost like a embassy for the Church, which might very well put a mission home in an upscale neighborhood. These needs then likely need to be balanced with the need to be approachable by the community–so that missionaries can actually reach the people.
In contrast, the idea that it is ok to ‘steal from the rich,’ especially rich foreigners, because you are poor, is common in many parts of Africa. It seems to me that often the rich make themselves obvious targets–if you protect your house with walls and a security guard, aren’t you broadcasting that you have stuff worth stealing in your home?
I can’t say what should happen in Mozambique. I have a very limited experience with the country. But I do find the pattern of behavior interesting. To a lesser degree we see the same attitudes, on both sides, here in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. We have very rich here too, and the rich protect their houses and goods with security measures–walls, security guards and the like are not uncommon. And while our poor don’t suffer to the same extent, at least some of them use the same justification for illegal activities. And is there any doubt that the same visual clues — ostentatious housing, dress, cars, and the use of security–to select targets for their thefts?
If nothing else, the similarities between the rich countries and poor countries like Mozambique leads me to believe that there are universal motivations at work. I think it would be simplistic to think that some people are just evil and will commit crimes no matter what, just as it is likewise simplistic to suggest that how wealthy a country is determines how much crime there is. Both environment and individual character are at play.
Of these two, environment seems easier to fix, but I have to wonder if security measures really contribute much to the fix. While they make it more difficult for criminals to act, it seems to me that they are self-fulfilling in a sense, tipping off criminals that something behind the walls and security guards is worth protecting. [Kind of like, “if you build it, they will try to break in…”]
But eliminating the conditions and culture of crime–reducing the gap between rich and poor, increasing economic opportunity, strengthening the moral beliefs of a community–all require herculean efforts that make them seem impossible to the individual and extremely difficult to achieve for even the most popular and powerful politicians.
The individual is really left with two choices, in my opinion. First, beef up personal security–build the walls and hire the security guards. Second, live modestly, so that you are not as attractive a target.
I don’t know about you, but the second seems like what the scriptures favor.