ONGWEDIVA – It appears that thieves have discovered a rewarding market for bells, as theft of church bells has become a recurring crime in the north.
Parishes belonging to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (Elcin) seem to have become the target, as a few have lost their bells over the past few years, thus ruining an integral part of church services – the ringing of the church bell that marks important occasions in the life of individuals, the church and the nation. The police suspect thieves sell these bells mainly to goldsmiths in neighbouring countries. The latest theft took place at the Oluteyi parish in Omusati region, where a bell, worth N$120 000, was stolen by unknown thieves on Sunday evening.
According to Reverend Wihelmiana Nepaka of the parish, a congregant noticed on Monday that the bell was not there and alerted the office. “When my colleagues went to the office on Monday, they did not notice that the bell was not there. Its pillar is a bit far from the office so it was impossible to immediately notice that the bell was gone,” she narrated.
It is the first time such an incident happened since the church was established in 1975, she noted. “I am praying that whoever stole our church bell, may the almighty spirit catch them and return it,” said the reverend, while pleading with other Christians to pray together to recover their expensive antique bell. Several Elcin parishes have been targeted since 2019.
The bell of the Oshakati parish, estimated to be worth between N$70 000 and N$120 000, was stolen in July 2019.
Bells of the Ogongo Catholic parish and the Oshitayi Elcin parish were also stolen in April 2020. These are valued at N$100 000 and N$50 000, respectively.
The Oshitayi church’s bell was, however, recovered a week after the theft when it was found hidden in the bushes a few metres away from the church premises.
It is reported that in 2021, two more churches in the Omusati region had their bells, of a combined value of about N$130 000, stolen. In that year, Inspector Lineekela Shikongo of the Namibian Police explained that the first incident occurred at an unknown time at night when suspects used unknown objects to remove a bell that was fixed to a tower of the Eengoma Parish in the Ouwananghala village near Outapi. The value of the bell is estimated at N$30 000.
The second incident occurred during the early morning hours of the following day when suspects targeted the Olupaka parish, also located in the Outapi constituency, and stole a bell, valued at N$100 000.