Lutheran World Federation assembles in Namibia for 500th anniversary of Martin Luther.
Hundreds of Lutherans gathered this week for a global celebration of the Reformation. But they didn’t do it in Germany, where their namesake Martin Luther was born and where he hammered out his 95 theses.
Instead, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) gathered in Namibia, a country of just 2.5 million in southern Africa.
Luther’s “rebellion against Rome was also an inspiration to us during our country’s liberation struggle against the injustices of apartheid and occupation,” Namibian president Hage Geingob, himself a Lutheran, said when welcoming the delegates.
“We are taking a leaf out of Martin Luther’s writings, as we also seek to build a new society in reconciliation. I recall Luther’s inquiry into the nature of atonement—or reconciliation—that presupposes a broken relationship. Atonement brings about the restoration of the relationship. Our policy of reconciliation draws on this experience.”
Perhaps the relationship most in need of restoration is that with Germany itself.
Germany’s historical presence in Namibia is strong—in 1884, as Europe was carving up Africa, Germany claimed Namibia and called it German South West Africa. The discovery of diamonds increased interest, and thousands of Germans swooped in, claiming both land and forced labor from indigenous Africans.
The native Herero people rebelled, killing more than 100 German civilians. The response was ruthless: German troops indiscriminately killed men, women, and children from the Herero tribe, and later the rebellious Nama tribe. They drove tens of thousands into the desert and trapped them there with no food or water, then imprisoned many more in concentration camps. More than 100,000 were …