The U.S.-based ministry Mission Aviation Fellowship is urging Christians to pray for the release and safety of one of its pilots, Ryan Koher, and two South African volunteers who have been detained for nearly a month in Mozambique on suspicion of supporting insurgent activity.
Koher, 31, and two South Africans — 77-year-old W.J. du Plessis and 69-year-old Eric Dry — were detained in the coastal city of Inhambane on Nov. 4 while they were loading supplies into the aircraft to be taken to church-run orphanages in the Montepuez district in the troubled Cabo Delgado Province.
“I urge Christians around the world to pray for Ryan’s safety and swift release, and call on those in power both in Mozambique and here in the U.S. to do everything they can to resolve this wrongful detainment,” MAF President and CEO David Holsten said in a statement Friday.
While conducting the normal security scan at the airport, police asked about the supplies — vitamins, over-the-counter medications and food preservatives — Koher was to deliver for the orphanages and adult staff, the ministry said, adding that Koher is a pilot for its partner, Ambassador Aviation Ltd.
“None of the confiscated material belonged to Koher nor had it been loaded onto the airplane. AAL has been conducting these annual supply charter flights to the orphanages since 2014.”
The three men have been jailed on a still undetermined written charge, according to MAF.
While the three men were suspected to be supporting insurgency, “Ambassador Aviation has long sought to care for those who have been harmed by the insurgency, including evacuating innocent residents following a March 2021 insurgent attack.”
Islamic extremists have been exploiting a crisis in the coastal province of Cabo Delgado. A civil war started in 2017 over the area rich with gas, rubies, graphite, gold and other natural resources. Protesters demonstrated against what they say is profits going to an elite in the ruling Frelimo Party, with few jobs for local residents.
In the mostly Muslim region of Cabo Delgado in the otherwise Christian-majority country, Islamic extremists kidnap women and force boys to become child soldiers, The Washington Post reported in October.
"In 2017, jihadist insurgents began in the Cabo-Delgado province, winning over some locals due to the fact that they gave back resources to villagers from the government, and killed no one," the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern reported. "This did not last, however, as IS started setting fire to Christian villages, and killing those who lived there."
A lawyer from AAL the U.S. Embassy are engaged in the situation, MAF said, adding, however, that Embassy officials were denied access to Koher at a prison in Inhambane. Koher was later moved to the Machava High Security Prison near Maputo.
“Ryan is a caring and gentle individual,” Holsten said. “Over the last couple of years, he and his wife have worked hard to learn the language and culture of Mozambique to better serve those who rely on our service. Understandably, this situation has been very challenging for the family. We fully believe in Ryan’s innocence, and we are all praying that this issue will be resolved very soon with the charges dismissed and Ryan released.”