When I first saw Rembrandt’s painting The Return of the Prodigal Son, I could not help but be moved by this magnificent piece of art, as well as the Biblical story which the painting depicts. Based on Jesus Christ’s Parable of the Prodigal Son which appears in Luke 15:11-32, the painting depicts a joyous father accepting the return of his wayward son with open arms and without any hesitation.
My initial response to the father’s embrace of his son reminded me that we must desperately search for, and work to create that inner place where our children could be held as safely as the young man in the painting. This is especially true in the Namibian context, as this article will show.
Although Namibians are a friendly, hard-working and kind people, in general, a disturbing trend has reared its ugly head, and if not dealt with swiftly, threatens the well-being of hundreds, if not thousands, of Namibian children, especially young girls who are a particularly vulnerable group in Namibian society.
In stark contrast to the depiction of a loving father embracing his lost child as depicted in Rembrandt’s painting, it appears that some fathers in Namibia are not only failing their children in fundamental ways but in certain cases are also involved in much more sinister activities involving their children.
Although it is no secret that Namibia has been grappling with gender-based violence for quite some time, recently released statistics shed further light on another blight in Namibian society, namely the sexual abuse of minor children, especially underage girls (Confidente, 20 August 2020).
It has recently come to light that close to 800 Namibian children under the age of 16 have been raped in the last 18 months (Confidente, 20 August 2020).
Perhaps more disturbing, of the aforementioned 800 victims, 164 victims were assaulted by family members, 27 of which was assaulted by their biological fathers (Confidente, 20 August 2020). The statistics appear to indicate that male family members are the perpetrators of a significant, and shocking, percentage sex-crimes committed against minors in Namibia (Confidente, 20 August 2020). With the aforementioned statistics in mind, it is clear that much must be done to protect our sons and daughters, sometimes even from friends and family. A truly horrid idea.
What can one do to change this sordid state of affairs? I believe that, like the father depicted in Rembrandt’s painting, fathers in Namibia should approach parenting differently; with the view of loving their children unconditionally and passionately, even placing their children’s needs and happiness before their own.
This necessarily means that fathers should take interest in their children’s lives and be involved enough to render protection and guidance to their children whenever needed.
Research has indicated that children with fathers who were actively involved throughout the child’s first year performed better on cognitive development assessments and demonstrated an increased capacity for curiosity and exploration (Child Crisis Arizona, 5 July 2017).
Moreover, Children raised with active dads tend to score higher on verbal and math tests and are less likely to drop out of school or commit juvenile crimes exploration (Child Crisis Arizona, 5 July 2017). Being there for your child, while respecting and nurturing him or her along the way, is the absolute best way to ensure that your child is safe and to provide him/her with the best possible life possible.
At no point should a father exploit his child in any way, ultimately this is not the kind of fatherly love that Jesus Christ preached about. Just like the father in Rembrandt’s paintings fathers must strive to be the best fathers that they can be, even forgiving your child when they have angered you tremendously, for this is ultimately the kind of love that Jesus preached about. Just like Jesus Christ’s Parable of the Return of the Prodigal Son, Rembrandt’s paint beautifully captures the essence of what fatherly love should be.
Unfailingly a father should be selfless, loving and protecting towards his children, this is the kind of fatherly love that God desires fathers to have for their children.
With the above in mind, I am also I reminded of Jesus Christ’s conversation with Peter in Matthew 16: 13-20 when Jesus asks him, “Who do you say I am?” Although this seems like a simple question it is deeply existential and profound. Ultimately Jesus wanted Peter to see that others know us, not only by what we say but how we act.
They know us only by our acts of faith! Let us now be guided by Jesus Christ’s words and our faith not only to be better parents, better fathers but to create a society where strong, well-balanced children are raised by proud and strong fathers.