The recent infighting and electoral bickering in one of Namibia’s biggest religious movement sent shockwaves into the country, begging the question whether the church has forgotten its role.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (ELCRN) with a membership of over 400 000 congregants, laid bare its dirty linen in the public during its recent election of a new bishop, an experience that left a bad taste in the mouths of many people.
One will never downplay and devalue the contribution of churches such as ELCRN during the bitter, bloody and cold armed liberation struggle waged by gallant Namibians against the illegal and oppressive white South African regime.
It was the church in Namibia that wrote an open letter rebuking then South African administration for apartheid and for its illegal occupation of Namibia in 1971. The letter was loud in its hatred of the systematic injustices and human rights abuses against Namibians by the regime.
It is difficult to forget the 1986 /Ai-//Gams Declaration by the Council of Churches in Namibia (CCN) which encouraged all denominations in Namibia to reject the South African rule and to support the United Nation’s Resolution 435 which paved way for the independence of Namibia.
However, with the advent of the Namibian independence in 1989 and the silencing of the gun, the warfare has become one of economic emancipation and the battle for a decent life.
The importance of the church in answering modern-day questions is critical now, as demonstrated by President Hage Geingob during his engagements with religious leaders at State House. In 2014 Former President Hifikepunye Pohamba declared a National Day of Prayer against Violence.
The Namibian people through the government of the day, have waged a new war on poverty being fought on all fronts to ensure that every citizen of the country is living in conditions fit for a person.
As it stands, politicians are at each other’s throats fighting to reach the highest level of any office for reasons known to themselves, the fight against corruption is proving to be difficult by the day, the economy is not doing well, people are losing employment, families are breaking down and the moral fibre of society is decaying. Citizens are losing family members due to outbreaks of viruses in areas which are characterized by unhygienic living conditions.
Figures show that over 90 percent of the country’s 2.5 million people are Christians and it is during times such as these that hopeless Namibians are turning to the God they believe in through the church for answers.
However, it is disappointing and sad to note that while social ills are haunting the populous of whom some are practising Christians, the church is torn apart as a result of internal squabbles over positions.
At times when certain quarters of the population are frustrated and angry due to contemporary socio-economic events, the church is betraying Namibians in this fight and has seemingly turned a blind eye to the cries for help and guidance.
This is not only in the ELCRN church, but politics within the Christian church coupled with the growing trend of so-called prosperity gospel or the commercialization of religion in Namibia, has left much to be desired during these trying times.
Although the church is not the government, many Namibians have sought for solace and guidance from the men and women of cloth just like during the times of the armed liberation struggle. Many are hoping for the church to speak out against any perceived social injustice in modern-day Namibia.
While crime, drug and alcohol abuse, gender-based violence, joblessness continue to push many Namibian youth into a state of helplessness, the question remains – what is the role of the church in addressing these as a social movement?
Who do these over 90 percent Christian citizens turn to when searching for answers while the church is at war with itself? How will the church say it has contributed to the ongoing fight for economic emancipation and social equality for the Namibian people?