“Who Do We Say That Jesus Is in NamibiaΓÇªAfrica?”
ΓÇó Christ in Namibia today is a child going to bed hungry and crying him/herself to sleep. ΓÇó Christ in Namibia is a group of young people unemployed in the city where there is no money to pay for transport to an employment agency, no money to pay for food or shelter. ΓÇó Christ in Namibia is a Mother whose child will die in infancy because he/ she is HIV positive. ΓÇó Christ is Namibia is grandmother/father who must take care of her orphaned grandchildren because their parents have died of AIDS.
• Christ in Namibia today is a child going to bed hungry and crying him/herself to sleep.
• Christ in Namibia is a group of young people unemployed in the city where there is no money to pay for transport to an employment agency, no money to pay for food or shelter.
• Christ in Namibia is a Mother whose child will die in infancy because he/ she is HIV positive.
• Christ is Namibia is grandmother/father who must take care of her orphaned grandchildren because their parents have died of AIDS.
• Christ in Namibia is a widow who feels unfortunate to have been married to an unfaithful husband who died of AIDS and the relatives accused her of bewitching him and therefore inherited all his possessions.
• Christ in Namibia is women who suffer from domestic violence in marriages at the hands of the men they love.
• Christ in Namibia is represented by unending tribal conflicts and hatreds which continue to cause suffering among communities.
• Christ in Africa is represented by the suffering experienced by communities exposed to dictatorships of leaders who believe to have been destined to rule for life.
• Christ in Africa is a refugee in a refugee camp hopeless as there is no hope of when to go back home and whether peace will ever return to ones home country and that tribal conflict will one day come to an end.
The Sub-Region, Southern Africa, where I come from has got a strong Christian background. It has been said at one point in the history of my country that almost 90% of the Namibian population was Christian. Many of us who grew up in the area can testify to that because we can remember very well how Christ was introduced to us at an early age and there was no other religion at the time until when we moved to cities where we were exposed to people of other faiths.
Christ was introduced to Africans wrapped in a package of the Western culture. Christian missionaries introduced western culture to us and for years Africans perceived Christ to be western or European.
We can say that to an extend Africans have tried indeed to “unwrap” Jesus Christ from that western package and make Him African.
Today in Africa we talk about and understand Jesus Christ as a Saviour of the world sent even to Africa by God to us as part of God’s people in the world.
1. Christ, the Uprooted and Homeless One
In addition to the refugee crisis, Africa has experienced uprootedness because of numerous wars, civil conflicts and genocides like the one in Rwanda, ten years ago, people are still uprooted from their homes and normal life situations. In the African cities the informal settlements are evidence of the uprootedness our people are experiencing. Many come to cities looking for green pastures only to experience poverty, hunger and homelessness. Lack of basic needs and education opportunities, unemployment and the devastation caused by the HIV/AIDS pandemic has caused that many people have become homeless. This has led to conditions of depression, mental problems, drug and alcohol abuse.
The visible presence of the Church in Informal Settlements is clear evidence that Christ is like the uprooted and the homeless in Africa. In Namibia Christ can be compared to the San community who are the least developed and a community whose life style has been almost completely destroyed by civilization. Like any other ethnic group on the continent, the San communities in Southern Africa have been forced to give up their cultures and norms in order to survive. Churches have seen the presence of Christ in these communities and have answered the call by trying to help such communities to overcome the difficulties they are facing. The Body of Christ, the Church, has no choice but to identify itself with the uprooted and the homeless.
2. Christ, the Reconciler
Reconciliation is the business of the Church, being called to be reconciled with Christ and with one another. In Namibia reconciliation has been a serious concern for the Church even before independence. Since independence our country has been experiencing peace and harmony. However, we are still working hard on making sure that true reconciliation is realized in our country. In addition to the concern of reconciling different races and dealing with conflicts which started before, during and after the system of apartheid; we are facing challenges of Land Reform, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the problem of Orphans and Vulnerable Children especially caused by the HIV/AIDS deaths, the degradation of moral values in our society, violence especially against women and children and marginalized groups in our society, etc.,. Namibia is reported to have about 155,000 orphans and vulnerable children. The churches are in partnership with government to address the plight of Orphans and Vulnerable Children. The Council of Churches in Namibia (CCN) established the Church Alliance (CAFO) to address the needs of orphans in our communities.
CCN has also organized workshops of Church leaders and theologians to discuss the issue of Reconciliation and Land Reform in the country.
The workshops have been welcomed and Namibians who never used to relate to one another have started visiting one another and building relationships. Local congregations in Windhoek have established reconciliation committees and exchange programs after having participated in the workshops. People have also opened up and are freely discussing difficult issues related to the past with confidence and mutual trust. Almost all countries in Africa are participating in the Transformation Africa program where people come together during the month of May, praying for Africa and addressing issues concerning African development.
For us in Namibia the Transformation program has facilitated that our brothers and sisters from the white community have gained confidence to come and meet with us in the black townships which was unheard of in the past. Prayer groups have been formed and people from both sides have come to realize that they are all one in Christ Jesus. Christ has truly reconciled us because together we are now able to tackle problems of poverty, unemployment, racial discrimination, etc. Our aim is to have our three societal pillars, the Church, the Government and the Business sector work together for the glory of the Almighty God. Programs are underway where the Church will reach out to government and give support, for example, in the areas of training the people who will be resettled on the expropriated land, to reconcile the commercial farmers and their workers and to facilitate the process of sharing knowledge by those who are privileged with those who were previously disadvantaged.
Our experience has been very dynamic and we are convinced that the hand of the Lord is involved in our endeavors as Christ, the Reconciler. The building of trust amongst ourselves is necessary because we’ve been separated from one another for so long. It is also true that it has not been easy to convince the majority of the Namibian people that reconciliation is possible.
3. Christ, the Redeemer
In many parts of Africa Christianity address people’s needs in a holistic manner. Schools and hospitals were built and people’s needs were met. During the struggle for independence, the Church played a significant role in providing scholarships to the young people who became leaders in the Church, government and private sectors. The Church also served as a development agent in the absence of government and non-governmental organizations. The Church in Africa in welcoming the establishment of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) has made a commitment to support the realization of the NEPAD initiative. This commitment has been strengthened at the AACC 8th General Assembly in Yaounde Cameroon in November 2003, when African Churches made a commitment to work together in addressing the challenges facing the continent.
The theme of the AACC Assembly from Nehemiah 2: 17-18, “Come let us rebuild”, is fitting because Africa’s walls need rebuilding and reconstructing after so much destruction caused by colonialism and bad governance.