WINDHOEK - Violence being perpetuated against women and children is persistent because of complacency in all levels of leadership, including the church leaders to address the root causes of such violence, according to the former secretary-general of the Council of Churches (CCN), Reverend Maria Kapere.
Acts of violence against women and children continue to manifest itself unabated with reports of newly-born babies - in some cases fetuses - being dumped, women that died at the hands of their partners or women continuously being bashed by their partners.
Sometimes, the perpetrators are never apprehended and thus justice never really prevails for these victims.
Being a secular state, it is often said that the majority of Namibians are Christians or at least the majority of Namibians identify themselves with the Christian faith.
But what meaningful role has Christianity played in the modern-day times to fight against societal evils such as violence, especially perpetrated against children and women?
Speaking to New Era this week, Kapere who is a pastor of the African Methodist (AME) church said, “There is complacency in leadership in addressing gender-based violence at all levels. The prophetic role of the church (Christianity) is to address the wrong in a nation. This includes corruption, gender-based violence (GBV), rape and all forms of societal evils.”
Kapere is of the view that Christians in Namibia are relaxed and are not setting the “standards high” in terms of playing a meaningful role in society which includes taking a stance against societal evils.
She is of the view that to address GBV, men and women of the cloth should not only do this through sermons, rather through practical means such as practical programmes targeted at addressing such problems.
“Normally, a pastor just prays for the member. That is not enough. A person who has had a traumatic experience needs proper attention and there is need for a referral system whereby the church and social workers work together. When people know there is a caring environment we will really eradicate violence in all its forms,” said Kapere.
If once in a month, churches could have themes focused on addressing GBV there would be a reduction in cases of GBV, Kapere believes. During that period, “the sermon and other programmes can focus on addressing GBV,” said the AME pastor.
And, with a vigorous advocacy programme which also includes radio programmes aimed at tackling violence of all sorts, Kapere believes the church would be able to make an impact. Church leaders can also work with community leaders and regional councillors to advocate against GBV, highlighted the clergywoman.
During her tenure as secretary general (of the CCN), the CCN set up ecumenical committees in different parts of the country to address GBV and other forms of violence, said Kapere.
“If you call the pastors they don’t turn up. You find non-cooperative spiritual pastors. I’m calling upon the church to stand up. Now is the time to stand up against GBV,” said Kapere.
The lack of financial resources and skilled people who are trained in psychosocial counseling also hampers some churches in playing their part in addressing violence in all its forms, explained Kapere.
The CCN developed a document titled ‘National Framework on Gender Equality and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights for the CCN, member churches and faith based organisations (2012-2016)’ with the aim of addressing GBV and SRHRs issues in the communities.
Sadly, the document was not really implemented before it lapsed, admitted Kapere.
Lack of funding to develop a training manual and train key people in churches, as well as cooperation amongst member churches and faith based organisation were part of the reason why this document was not fully implemented, noted Kapere.
“Capacity in the church is not there. We requested for funding for the development of a training manual in order to train identified people in churches to implement GBV related programmes,” said Kapere.
Still, the document remains relevant and can be implemented individually in churches, she noted.
Furthermore, Kapere opined that because Namibia is a secular state, the Namibian constitution makes church leaders powerless when it comes to laws and cooperation between government and the church (Christian leaders).
Kapere also believes if government financially supports the churches (through an umbrella body such as CCN), faith-based organisations would carry out certain activities that are in line with the development of the country, including GBV programmes.
Kapere said on several occasions in the past and while she was secretary general of the CCN, there were initiatives from the CCN to call for a conference for the church leaders and government to come together and look at the National Development Plans (NDPs) and their implementation.
But, that never materialised, as there was reluctance on the part of government to convene with the church leaders for such a conference, she explained.
“The Government should provide funding for GBV programme implementation (to faith based organisations),” said Kapere.
Further, there is a need for well-structured counseling services in the church as well. Churches can work with social workers by referring members who really need counseling services to seek help beyond just prayers.
Ideally, churches should be hosting community meetings where they speak out against societal ills such as violence against women and children, radio programmes tackling these issues and actively working with young people to address these challenges, said Kapere.
“This engagement is lacking. There is a need for a well-structured and mapped out action plan, a cooperative, cohesive strategy,” added Kapere.
Even when there are efforts to address challenges of GBV, there will be “people who will go astray but if the nation sets itself the goal of advocacy we will make headways. Cooperation in our country is really poor even among the Christians,” said Kapere.
Kapere on prosperity gospel
Kapere also spoke out strongly against prosperity gospel preachers who use the word of God to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor. “The man of God sleeps in a palace while his subjects go to bed hungry. The church must have soup kitchens all over Namibia,” stated Kapere.
She also said that it is unbiblical that a pastor should be adored and worshipped. “There are pastors that do not even carry their Bibles anymore. They say its respect but it’s unbiblical. Ideologies have really worded down the church’s prophetic role,” noted Kapere.
2018-09-07 10:24:09 8 months ago