Namibian Church Leaders Oppose U.S. Policies

Episcopal News Service. December 11, 1986 [86267]

WASHINGTON (DPS, Dec. 11) -- Leaders of major Christian faiths in Namibia, including the Anglican Church, came to Washington Dec. 1-4 in an ecumenical pilgrimage to appeal for pressure on the government of South Africa to end its long time occupation of their country.

Part of an international tour sponsored by world Lutheran and Anglican bodies and the Vatican, the six Namibian church leaders sharply criticized the Reagan administration for refusing to support United Nations Resolution 435 which demands immediate withdrawal of South African forces from Namibia.

"Our people are suffering daily from the illegal occupation of our country," the church leaders said in a statement issued at a Dec. 2 news conference. (Eds.: Text follows)

"Not only are the Namibian people denied adequate education, medical care, employment and housing, but people are also arrested, tortured, murdered, maimed and raped," they said. "Our land is being destroyed."

The delegation included Bishop Kleopas of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia, Vice-Bishop Zephania Kameeta of the separate Evangelical Lutheran Church and Bishop Bonifatius Haushiku, a leader of the Catholic Church in Namibia. They traveled to Canada and the United States after an international church consultation held in Hanover, West Germany, from Nov. 23-25.

The gathering, along with the subsequent tour, was sponsored by the Lutheran World Federation, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Vatican's Secretariat for Christian Unity. The groups jointly urged "mandatory comprehensive sanctions" against South Africa until it implements the United Nations resolution.

From Hanover, approximately 30 Namibian church representatives split into delegations which traveled to Bonn, Rome, the Vatican, Copenhagen, Oslo, Ottawa, Helsinki, Stockholm, Canterbury, London, Paris and Washington.

Although the denominations have joined to resist South African occupation with Namibia, this was the first time that they have journeyed together to foreign countries with international church backing, according to church officials. Lutherans, Anglicans and Catholics, the three faiths represented in the tour, make up three-quarters of Namibia's population of 1.5 million.

In the United States, the Namibians met with Reagan administration officials, members of congress and church leaders. In an "open appeal" to the U.S. government, the church leaders charged that American policy toward Namibia since 1981 has been "a disaster for our people."

The Reagan administration, citing the need for a balance of power between pro-Western and pro-Soviet forces in the region, has said it will not seek a South African withdrawal from Namibia until Cuba removes its troops from neighboring Angola.

Haushiku, who heads the Vicariate of Windhoek, Namibia, said the administration's insistence on "linkage" between Cuban and South African troops is "holding up" implementation of the U.N. resolution.

He further assailed what he termed the "narrow-minded framework of the Reagan administration in seeing everything in terms of the East-West conflict."

The prelates were asked whether their proposal for a ban on Western investments in Namibia would actually hurt the nation's black population, rather than South Africa, which has an estimated 100,000 troops in the country.

Lutheran Bishop Dumeni said Namibians have already lost their freedoms, their property and have been divided from their families during the 26-year conflict between Namibian independence forces and South Africa. "We are ready to suffer on the way to our freedom," he replied.

Joining the Lutheran and Catholic bishops in Washington were Salmi Shivute, a nurse at a Lutheran hospital in northern Namibia; W. Hamutenya, a Catholic layman who was among more than 100 Namibians held in a prison camp from 1978 to 1984; and the Rev. Abisai Shejavali, a Lutheran who serves as General Secretary of the Council of Churches in Namibia. Lutherans are the dominant faith in Namibia. They were also joined by the Rev. Brian Grieves, representing the Presiding Bishop and the Episcopal Church and the Rev. Massey Gentry, another Episcopal priest representing the Anglican Council of Churches.

To the Churches in the United States

Greetings to our friends in the Church of God. We, your Namibian brothers and sisters wish to extend our gratitude for your welcome of our delegation and for all that you are doing on our behalf, both in moral and material support. You make us feel part of a world wide family.

Our need for your help remains as urgent as ever. South Africa continues to occupy our country in defiance of international law, denying the Namibian people their basic human right to self determination.

South Africa maintains its colonial apartheid rule by brutal force and constant terror, imposing an illegal government supported by an enormous army. It further supports UNITA in Angola which is destabilizing the region. It conscripts our own people to fight against their own brothers and sisters, Mothers and Fathers.

Arrest, torture, murder and rape are a part of everyday life in Namibia.

The western nations remain complicit in the brutal repression of the Namibian people. We desperately reach out to you to exercise your role in determining the moral conscience of your country. We plead for immediate active support on our behalf.

We continue to call for implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 435, calling for the withdrawal of South Africa and a democratic election by the Namibian people for a new independent government. And we further support legally binding sanctions against South Africa on behalf of Namibia.

We ask you to support our efforts in the following ways:

  • continue your prayers for the Namibian people and their independence
  • disseminate in the next 30 days the Hanover message to all congregations in the country, urging prayer and political actions;
  • appoint appropriate persons in your various structures to receive and share information from the Churches in Namibia and the Namibian Communications Center in London. And provide these persons with necessary material support;
  • represent in all ways possible the Namibian cause to your respective governments, urging the imposition of sanctions until UNSCR 435 is implemented;
  • work with the churches of other denominations for Namibian independence;
  • take up urgent issues when requested by the Namibian churches we represent;
  • avoid involvement in any way with the "interim government" or other South Africa structures in Namibia. Our situation is desperate, brothers and sisters, we urgently seek your help now and more than ever. The suffering and terror imposed on our people is intolerable.

For all that you can do for us, we give thanks and praise God's holy name. Pray for us as we pray for you.


The Delegation of the Churches from Namibia

The Rt. Rev. Bonifatius Haushiku, ICP, Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Windhoek

The Rt. Rev. Kleopas Dumeni, Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELOC)

Mr. W. Hamutenya, layman of the Catholic Diocese of Windhoek

Ms. Salmi Shivute, Hospital Sister, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Nambia (ELOC)

The Rev. Dr. Abisai Shejavali, General Secretary, Council of Churches in Nambia (Lutheran)

and supported by

The Rev. Brian Grieves, for the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A.

The Rev. Massey Gentry, for Anglican Communion and Episcopal Church, U.S.A.