Thousands of Lutherans and other Christians from around the world have gathered in Namibia to remember the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with the Namibian president and a representative of Pope Francis in the colorful crowd.
The commemoration service included seven testimonies from around the world, one for each LWF region describing how faith has spread, taken root, and how it has broken down walls and Hage Geingob, the President of Namibia attended the service.
"What we need now is not the justification of the wrongs of the past, but that God in his grace, blot out all our iniquity, and create in our world pure hearts of love, justice and peace," said Namibian bishop emeritus Zephania Kameeta in his sermon.
The Reformation anniverary this year is special in that Lutherans and Roman Catholics are jointly celebrating the event triggered by Catholic priest Martin Luther nailing 95 these to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany.
He was protesting corruption in the church at the time and a massive schism in Christianity took place then.
The Reformation was followed by centuries of bloodletting among Christians, mainly in Europe and involved wars between different nations.
Cardinal Kurt Koch president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Pope Francis point man on ecumenical relations and the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit also attended the service and the assembly.
Several Namibian choirs and a brass band participated in the service with music pieces especially composed for the LWF assembly and the Reformation commemoration as well as hymns from various parts of the world.
Namibia's President Hage Geingob delighted participants at the Lutheran assembly when he exclaimed on May 10, "I am a Lutheran!"
"I am Lutheran. Therefore, I am honored today to welcome my fellow Lutherans to Namibia on this very special occasion of the five hundredth Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation," he said on 10 May in Windhoek, Namibia.
INVITED BY THE PRESIDENT OF NAMIBIA
The Namibian president invited the participants at the Twelfth LWF Assembly to a dinner and cultural evening he hosted at the Windhoek Country Club in the Namibian capital.
More than 800 people listened to his speech after opening remarks by Bishop Ernst //Gamxamub, chairperson of the United Church Council of the Namibia Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Namibia.
"The Lutheran church has a long and illustriious history in Namibia. It is therefore appropriate for me to reflect on the fact that Martin Luther who was an Augustinian friar, led his rebellion against corruption and injustices," said Geingob.
During the cultural evening the guests listened to the Orchestra of the Martin Luther University Halle Wittenberg and two local choirs.
Geingob said Martin Luther was a great thinker and prolific writer, adding that the work of the reformer was "an inspiration to us during our country's liberation struggle against the injustices of apartheid and occupation.
"We are grateful to the Lutheran church not only for its moral support but also material support during our struggle against oppression. So, you can see why we have a special affinity with the Lutheran World Federation. We have 775,000 Lutherans in Namibia," said Geingob.
He cited church leaders such as Bishop Shekutaamba V.V. Nambala, Bishop Zephania Kameeta (a former LWF Council member – now government cabinet minister), Bishop Leonard Auala, "just to mention a few," and noted, "the Lutheran church has continued to guide Namibians to stand for justice, integrity and honesty anchored in faith."
The outgoing LWF President, Younan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land thanked Geigob and the Namibian people and said the member churches of the LWF had "long been committed to accompanying Namibia in the cause of justice, confronting every kind of racism and apartheid."
Younan said many people asked us why the LWF was holding its assembly in Namibia? "My answer is that Namibia represents an important reality for Christianity today. The density of Christians in the world is no longer in Europe, is no longer in the transatlantic global North but in the global South!"
"The continent of Africa is where the Gospel of Jesus Christ is flourishing. This continent is where the freshness of the Gospel can be found. We honor the three Lutheran churches of Namibia, and the seriousness with which they are committed to mission work and prophetic diakonia," Younan said.
"I see the spirit of the Reformation alive and well in Namibia today; the spirit of unity among the churches in Namibia is flourishing and interfaith dialogue is successful."
The three Namibian Lutheran churches have a combined membership of almost 1.2 million, which is around half of the approximately 2.4 million who make up the total population of Namibia.
Namibia was first a German colony, 1884 – 1917, and was conquered by South Africa during World War I and then administered by then apartheid South Africa until its United Nations guided independence in 1990.
LWF supported the churches in seeking freedom for Namibia's people.
On May 14 - Rev. Musa Panti Filibus, Archbishop of the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria was elected president of the Lutheran World Federation to replace Palestinian Bishop Munib A. Younan, who has served his full term. Filibus is the second African to hold this position as a voice for the 74-million strong LWF.