The role of faith in an ailing nation (Part 1)


One wonders whether civilisations that exist on the planet earth, or the orderings of thoughts by which peoples live in their customs and traditions would have come about without the influence of their faiths. Faith here refers to what people believe and the codified precepts to which they return when they are uncertain, go astray or become hurtful to one another when facing challenges of the vicissitudes of life. History shows that the greatest of crusades were motivated or inspired by some intrinsic faiths that drove leaders to do what they did.
To be sure, the struggles we know about by influential leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and the like sprang from the fountains of their convictions that life was meant to be enjoyed by all, and that society was ordered in ways that were inconsistent with the will of the Almighty – the creator to whom we all return. In the absence of such faith, powerful men and women invented their own version of the supernatural, such as the Chinese and Indian faiths or the influences of Karl Marx who in turn believed and proselytised through his seminal communist ideological writings that religion as it was known and practised was the opium by which the exploitative capitalist system tranquilised the powerless workers to suffer on earth as their rewards were awaiting them up in heaven.
In the studies of political science, there are histories of how the spiritual fervours of people influenced their political economies for better or for worse. On the positive side, Gandhi would appeal to his angry Hindu followers to consider a Muslim child as an equal and to raise such a child as Muslim in their Hindu home. Martin Luther King would spend his energy on convincing friend and foe that injustice anywhere was a threat to peace everywhere.
It is often said that the evolution of the powerful German economy was the result of the Protestant Ethic. It is thus no surprise that the greatest number of African-American leaders of the civil rights movement were from the clergy, and Steve Biko’s first essay towards the Black Consciousness Movement was on Theology. Further, it is no coincidence that the crop of strong Afrikan leaders – Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Patrice Lumumba, Houphouet Boigny, Leopold Senghor, King Moshoeshoe, Gregoire Kayibanda, Thomas Sankara and Robert Mugabe were raised in strong Catholic principles.
Others such as Albert Luthuli, Eduardo Mondlane, Jomo Kenyatta, Kenneth Kaunda and Nelson Mandela were moulded in Methodist and Presbyterian traditions. It can therefore be argued that without the strong orientations they received about human relationships, they would not have been what they became. There can be no true democracy without democrats. There would not be Christianity without the twelve men who dwelt and communed with Jesus of Nazareth for three years and those they influenced, such as Paul of Tarsus, who codified the Christian doctrine through his letters to various communities.
On 4 and 5 April 2017, an unusual religious conversation took place in Namibia for the first time, billed as a ‘Namibian Abrahamic Interfaith Dialogue’. It was, to all intents and purposes, an attempt by good citizens who wish to turn to faith as a building block of a stronger One Namibia, One Nation. The Abrahamic faiths are all religions that derive, directly or indirectly, their faith from the life stories of the biblical Abraham and his descendants. This includes the Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, the Protestants, the Charismatic Pentecostals, the Muslims, and the Ba’Hai faith members. The dialogue also included the Budhists. The aim of the dialogue was to identify, discern and regroup around the purpose and mission of the faith-based organizations in Namibia currently, and figure out what their proper roles are in the context of the Namibia that we all see is not doing too well.
It was fascinating to witness how passionate the leaderships of these faith-based organisations are about their desire to become more relevant in the socio-economic life of the nation today, not the country that was before independence when the enemy was very clear for all to see. In Namibia today, the enemy is from within, and the abuses of power are by Namibians and not foreigners.
Corruption that is on a grand scale is practised by our own elected leaders and the abuse of political power to hurt other Namibians by Namibians who have taken the oath of office to defend and protect all Namibian inhabitants. There was one hundred percent agreement that Namibia’s faith-based communities have lost their bite, if they had one before, and that the nation could do better in terms of relationships between people in terms of the powerful versus the powerless and along race, language, class, gender and any other marker of our national diversity.
There was total agreement that Namibia lacks a government that truly cares about the people and that responds appropriately to the needs of the people in accord with the available resources that are there humanly and materially. There was consensus that the faith-based organisations in the country could do better by regrouping around the one message of service and equality of all by regrouping around the definition and articulations of their respective missions and services to the nation in such a manner that they would become more relevant in Namibia here and now.
All participants accepted that the leadership of faith-based communities are failing in their mandate to speak the truth to power today for different reasons, the greatest one being fear of the current political leadership that is perceived to be capable of exacting revenge to hurt them as individuals and/or the flocks that they are leading. It is clear that despite the plethora of preachers and pastors in the land, Namibia lacks theologians who could guide the political leadership in the management of resources of the land. (To be continued next week)


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