The Evangelical Church in Germany has officially asked descendants of the victims of the Nama and Herero genocide in Namibia for forgiveness.
Bishop Petra Bosse-Huber, the vice president of the Evangelical Church in Germany, who heads the Department for Ecumenical Relations and Ministries Abroad, spoke to Deutsche Welle this week about the church’s role in the genocide and admitted the church was “heavily involved” in colonialism.
Asked by journalist Wolfgang Dick why has the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) decided to make its statement on the genocide -which took place at the turn of the 19th century – only now, she said: “It is long overdue, so it’s good that it’s coming now. There is also a concrete reason. The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is holding its congress in Windhoek (the capital of Namibia) at the beginning of May…”
Bosse-Huber acknowledged that “the Rhine Mission was heavily involved” in colonialism in Namibia.
“There were priests and deacons who stood clearly on the side of the Namibian people and denounced the injustice of dispossession, persecution and racism. There was another element of the Rhine Mission that kept much closer to the Kaiser… we know that although no priest there called directly for annihilation, the relationship to colonial settlers and troops was so close there was no way they could have stood up to atrocities. That’s why we can only ask for forgiveness.”
She said the church’s decision to come clean has been long in the making.
“Our statement is the result of a long process. The 100th anniversary of the Battle of Waterberg in 2004 spurred the initial research, which we began in 2007 and concluded in 2015. It took some convincing and there was resistance to it, but that was broken down over the years by dealing with the subject.”
The German bishop said in January, church leaders “met with our Namibian partners to ensure our apology would not be received as an insult of any kind, as well as to lay out specific measures.”
The EKD is now proposing a Namibian-German Institute for Reconciliation and Development, as well as identifying and creating memorial locations for the genocide in Namibia and Germany.
“These places of mass murder largely lack any indication of what transpired and offer no opportunity to reflect. This is difficult to bear,” she noted.
“Then there is the matter of returning victims’ remains, such as skulls of those from the local population, still in Germany. These were allegedly brought to Germany for medical purposes. Returning these remains must happen in an appropriate and dignified manner. If you know a little about Africa and know the significance of ancestors there, you know how sensitive the issue is.”
Bosse-Huber said the church has close contacts but no political role in the ongoing negotiations between the Namibian and German governments.
“I hope those on both sides charged with these discussions take them very seriously. We will do everything we can from our side to support them. As the Evangelical Church, we have a strong interest in the victims being heard and their concerns leading to political action,” she said.
NO REPARATIONS FROM CHURCH
Asked about possible reparations to the genocide victims from the EKD, Bishop Bosse-Huber – despite acknowledging the role of the church in German colonialism – said: “Fortunately that is not an issue for us, because there is no historical evidence of culpability that would raise such a question. If we were to consider reparations, it would make the honest reappraisal [of history] even more difficult.”
Bishop Petra Bosse-Huber has been the vice president of the Evangelical Church in Germany since 2014.
– Sourced from Deutsche Welle