Robbers at a church in Berea, Johannesburg beaten up by the congregation.

Johannesburg - Armed robbers who stormed into a church at the end of a prayer meeting and started demanding phones and money last night got the beating of their lives from the enraged congregation.

They were punched, kicked and had chairs thrown at them.

The incident happened at about 8pm last night in Berea, Joburg.

Congregant Thuso Siziba said a prayer meeting at the Assemblies of God was disrupted when three “gun-wielding thugs” stormed into the church. Siziba said people were about to leave the church when the men drew their firearms, ordering everyone to stay put.

“Sit. Don’t move. We want phones and cash,” the men reportedly yelled at congregants.

Siziba said two of the men had firearms which they pointed at the congregation. The other man allegedly went around the church, collecting phones and money.

Then a woman worshipper stood up and shouted: “This can’t happen in the house of God!” and started praying in earnest.

Other congregants joined in the prayer.

Siziba said at that moment, the men became confused and did not know what to do. One armed man, who he thinks was the leader, fled.

“One of the congregants put his life on the line by taking that opportunity to go to one of the men. He grabbed the hand that was holding the gun and twisted it until it faced upwards.

“The gun fell on the floor and the congregant also pushed him on the floor.

“We had to make sure that he does not escape so we started hitting him. The other one was (still) busy collecting phones and money. He did not have a gun and we also went for him.

“Up until that moment people had been frustrated at what was happening so when both men were down, they (the congregants) unleashed their anger at them. I had never seen women angry like that. They beat them up and threw chairs at them,” he said.

“We beat them up. We had to do what we had to do.”

One of the congregants who had gone outside to phone police saw officers patrolling the streets and flagged them down.

The officers immediately went to the church where they found the injured and bleeding suspects lying on the floor.

“Police were patrolling at the time. We really thank God for visible policing,” he said.

Siziba said their church had become a soft target for criminals. He said criminals had destroyed street lights to afford them cover for their activities.

“The church has been broken into before and the speakers taken. The cars in the parking lot are always broken into, too,” he said.

Sergeant Mduduzi Zondo, spokesman for the Hillbrow police, confirmed that two suspects were arrested and a 9mm firearm confiscated.

“They have been charged with business robbery and the possession of an unlicensed firearm,” Zondo said.

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The Star