The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN) and poverty, with specific reference to semi-urban communities in Northern Namibia : a practical theological evaluation

Niitenge, Gideon (2013-03)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study is an evaluative study of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN). It is presupposed in this study that, although the ELCIN, since it became autonomous in 1954, has a long history of doing mission and diaconal work according to her Constitution, it has been recorded that, the Church is more and more lacking in the capacity to meet the challenges and needs of the Namibian post-independent society and subsequently cannot effect social transformation, yet it undoubtedly has the potential. This study focuses on the communities of the Ondangwa and Oshakati informal Settlements situated in the Oshana Region of northern Namibia, in the former homeland of “Owamboland.” The study is an overview of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN) with regard to her public witness before Namibia’s independence that is during 1971 to 1989 and seeks a better understanding of her functionality fundamental to the Missio Dei. Throughout its history, the Church has been called to have a deep concern for the poor and oppressed. The post-Namibian socio-economic problems present a huge challenge to the church, thus raising questions such as: How well has the Church been responding to the challenges of our times? How helpful has it been to those who turn to it to seek social justice? How helpful has it been to those who seek economic and political justice? How helpful has it been to those seeking gender equality and to the marginalised? How helpful has it been to those infected, affected and afflicted by HIV/AIDS? In short, how helpful and relevant is the Church in addressing persons, laws, structures and institutions that degrade and oppress God’s people? These questions arise from concern regarding the emerging culture of corruption and crimes in the nation as well as questions concerning the prophetic task of the Church regarding socio-political and economic issues. It is argued in this study that the socio-economic challenges faced by the informal settlement inhabitants pose a challenge to the Church regarding poverty. A holistic approach to Church‘s mission in context should embrace radical discipleship, coupled with socio-political and economic involvement, integrating both economic, social, ecological, and spiritual change, and leading to healing and transformation. This means that the mission of God is as comprehensive, broad and deep as the needs and exigencies of human existence that is why spiritual and physical ministry cannot be done separately. A holistic mission approach will enable the Christian faith to penetrate and have its roots deep in the Namibian soil. The most adequate formulation subsumes the total mission of the church under the biblical concept of marturea (witnessing), kerugma (proclamation), koinonia (fellowship) didache (teaching) and diakonia (service). The context should indicate where the emphasis ought to be, and the circumstances dictate the way in which this witness has to be communicated. It is of cardinal (paramount) importance for the Church to continuously minister to the marginalised because of its concern and divine calling to the Missio Dei. The empowerment of people in development at the grassroots level is crucial to overcoming oppression and exploitation. The Church, particularly the Evangelical Lutheran in Church in Namibia (ELCIN), has a responsibility to foster and encourage self-reliance in order that, people can exercise their rights to determine their own future, rights which include sovereignty over natural resources, land, production and distribution. It is argued in this study, based on an analysis of the Church as a Community called by God that the essence of community development and the people-centred participatory development process, is that the Church as a Community-based organization is essentially best served in effecting social change by orientating itself according to the people-centred participatory development approach. The conclusion is drawn, among the key challenges identified, that there is a need for the church to evidence holistic theology and sustainable action with regard to social responsibility. Action remains, for the most part, in a dominant charity mode. Partnership, in its various forms, is identified as necessary and as the more sustainable strategy in a context of inequality. Recommendations for action are proposed at the end of this study in order to guide the ELCIN in areas such as Ondangwa and Oshakati, to become a meaningful role player in these communities.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie is ‘n evaluerende studie van die Evangeliese Lutherse Kerk in Namibie (ELKIN). Daar word in hierdie studie veronderstel dat, hoewel die ELKIN, sedet dit in 1954 outonoom het, ‘n lang geskiedenis het van missie en diakonale wek volgens haar Grondwet, dit aangeteken is dat die Kerk is meer en meer aan die kapasiteit ontbreek om te voldoen aan die uitdagings en die behoeftes van die Namibiese post-onafhanklike samelewing en daarom geen invloed op sosiale transformasie het nie, maar ongetwyfeld die potensiaal daartoe het. In hierdie studie word gefokus op die gemeenskappe van Ondangwa en Oshakati se informele nedersettings gelee in die Oshana-streek noorde van Namibie, in die voormalige tuisland van “Owamboland.” Die doel is om ‘n oorsig van die Evangeliese Lutherse Kerk in Namibie (ELKIN) met betrekking tot haar openbare getuienis voor Namibie se onafhanklikwording in die tydperk 1971 tot 1989, te gee en om ‘n beter begrip van haar funksies onderliggend aan die Missio Dei te bewerstelling. Dwarsdeur die geskiedenis, is die kerk geroep is om ‘n diepe besorgheid vir die armes en onderdruktes te he. Die post-Namibiese sosioekonomiese problem bied ‘n groot uitdaging aan die kerk, dus die vehoging in die aantaal vrae soos: Hoe goed het die Kerk ge reageer op die uitdagings van ons tyd? Hoe dra die Kerk tot die soeke na sosiale geregtigheid? Hoe nuttig is dit aan diegene wat die ekonomiese en politieke geregtigheid soek? Hoe dra die Kerk by tot die soeke na geslagsgelykheid en hulp aan diegene wat gemarginaliseer word? Watter hulp bied bied die Kerk aan diegene wat met MIV/vigs besmet is of wat daardeur geraak en verdruk word? In kort, hoe nuttig en relevant is die kerk in die aanspreek van persone, wette, structure en instellings wat God se volk verneder en verdruk? Hierdie vrae ontstaan as gevolg van die kommer wat ontstaan weens die opkomende kultuur van korrupsie en misdaad in die land sowel as vrae oor die profetiese taak van die Kerk ten opsigte van sosio-politieke en ekonomiese kwessies. Daar word aangevoer word in hierdie studied at die sosio-ekonomiese van die inwoners van die informele nedersetting ‘n uitdaging aan die kerk ten opsigte van armoede. ‘n holistiese benadering tot die Kerk se sending in die konteks moet omhels radikale dissipelskap, tesame met ‘n sosio-politieke en ekonomiese betrokkenheid, die integrasie van beide die ekonomiese, sosiale, ekologiese, en geestelike verandering behels. Dit lei tot genesing en transformasie. Dit beteken dat die missie van God net so omvattende, breed en diep is soos die behoeftes en vereistes van die menslike bestaan, dit is waarom die geestelike en die fisiese ministerie kan nie apart gedoen kan word nie. ‘n holistiese missie benadering sal die Christelike geloof in staat stel om deur te dring en het sy wortels diep in die Namibiese grond. Die mees geskikte formulering behels die totale missie van die kerk onder die Bybelse konsep van marturea (getuie), kerugma (verkondiging), koinonia (gemeenskap) en diakonia (diens). Die konteks behoort te le en die omstandighede dikteer die manier waarop hierdie getuienis gekomminikeer word. Dit is van kardinale belang vir die Kerk om voortdurend die Word aan hierdie mense te bring, en om hul te versorg, in hehoorsaamhed aan die goddelike roeping tot die Missio Dei. Die bemagtiging van mense en hul ontwikkeling op voetsoolvlak is noodsaaklik vir die voorkoming van onderdrukking en uitbuiting. Die kerk, veral die Evangeliese Lutherse Kerk in Namibie (ELKIN), het ‘n verantwoordelikheid om selfstangigeheid te be vorder en aan te moedig, sodat mense hul regte, hul eie toekoms, soewereiniteit oor natuurlike hulpbronne, die land, produksie en verspreiding kan bepaal en uitoefen. Daar word aangevoer in hierdie studie, wat gebaseer is op ‘n analise van die Kerk as ‘n Gemeenskap wat deur God geroep is, dat die essensie van ontwikkeling van die gemeenskap en die mens-gesentreerde deelnemende ontwikkeling proses, is dat die Kerk as ‘n gemeenskaps-baseerde organisasie in wese die beste gedien word in die bewerkstelliging van sosiale verandering, deur om te orienteer in die rigting van mens-gesentreerde deelnemende ontwikkeling. Nadat sleutel uitdagings uitgeken word, word die studie afgesluit deurdat daar tot die slotsam gekom word dat daar getuiens gelewer moet word holistiese teologie en volhoubare aksie met betrekking tot sosiale verantwoordelikheid. Aksie sal nog steeds hoofsaaklik liefdadig van aard wees maar daar word vasgestel dat Vennootskappe, in die konteks van ongelykheid, die mees volhoudbare strategie blyk te wees. Aanbevelings vir aksie word aan die einde van hierdie studie gedoen om die ELKIN te lei in gebiede soos Ondangwa and Oshakati, ‘n betekenis volle rol speel.

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