Quite the contrary. I believe in the letter and spirit of our Bill of Fundamental Rights, including the right to “freedom of thought, conscience and belief” and the “freedom to practice any religion and to manifest such practice”. I would deny no one their rights in this regard, but I am surely entitled to question whether the claimed widespread adherence to Christianity among Namibians has made us a better nation and whether we should be looking at other ‘solutions’ to restore the moral and ethical fibre of our people.
Constitutionally-speaking, Namibia is a secular state in spite of the oft-repeated claim that over 90 per cent of Namibians are Christians. Because of this secularism, the Christian religion does not or should not enjoy any priority or more rights than any other religion being practised in this country. While it may be true to say that other religions have a minority of adherents here in comparison with Christians in Namibia, people are nevertheless also entitled to practice as Muslims or Ba’Hai or other faiths they may subscribe to. And this is as it should be.
What I cannot stand though, is the ‘preachiness’ of those who claim to be Christians yet do not live their lives according to the tenets and faith of this religion, and it is true to say that ‘going to church does not a Christian make’!
I am not ridiculing anyone’s faith or indicting anyone for their beliefs ... I respect the fact that they’re as entitled to their views as I am to mine. And I know of many Christians who live good and honest lives. All respect to them.
What I’ve said before in my columns is that Namibia’s professed adherence to Christianity, as a society, has not made us a better nation. And we should think twice before we trumpet that fact, for we are discrediting the majority religion by doing so against the background of a country failing itself in the most important ways.
And I have questioned the sincerity of those (Christian) beliefs in light of this. I am entitled to do so. In my search for solutions to our impasse as a nation, I have also encouraged the teaching of ethics and morals to children from a young age, both at home and at school in order to change our society for the better. If 95 per cent of our nation were born and brought up in the Christian faith, as is widely claimed, then it clearly has not worked for us, I regret to say.
I am not trying to deny anyone their faith or religion at all. I am not telling anyone NOT to believe or WHAT to believe. I am merely saying that Namibia needs to become a good nation, and perhaps the Christian commitment needs to be reviewed and/or re-consolidated in light of this. In some of these Christian churches themselves, recent media reports have shown that corruption and mismanagement is the order of the day, and this is nothing to be proud of.
In the apartheid era, the churches at least stood up against injustice and defended the oppressed. Not so anymore. These voices are largely silent and/or perhaps even compromised.
While I deny no one their beliefs, several of these so-called ‘believers’ have vilified me for my views (see today’s letters pages); I am accosted in supermarkets about why I need to be ‘born again’; I am being sent copies of the Holy Bible with a written instruction from an anonymous source that I “read this book from cover to cover”. All of which I find quite offensive as I have lived my life as a person who has stood up for the oppressed and who is committed to ethics and honesty.
I believe in the country’s Bill of Rights and I think this should guide us all. The debate about secularism is something for another day. Our country does have some idiosyncrasies, for although we are constitutionally ‘secular’ (i.e. there is a separation between church and state and no one church or religion is officially ‘recognised’) we are not secular purists in that Ministers still swear (religious) oaths and prayers are still often said before official meetings etc.
What concerns me is not who or how many Namibians support which religion. It is irrelevant to me. What is important though is that we are a people who are committed to a just and good society whatever our personal religious beliefs. If we proudly proclaim the country to be 95 per cent Christian then we must also remember that this statistic also means that most of those who are corrupt or intolerant or who commit violent crimes call themselves Christians. We need to do something about this as hypocrisy and holier-than-thou Christian posturing will not change things for the better.
(Meanwhile the Bible I was given will be donated to a Christian believer who will hopefully make good use of it).
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